Ronan Mullarney caught fire at the Alps Tour’s Gosser Open in Austria to put one hand on the trophy.
After torrential rain saw Thursday’s opening round suspended shortly before the Galway man was due to tee off, and the day’s play subsequently cancelled after the heavens refused to close, Mullarney faced the prospect of 36 holes on Friday.
The course saturated, he’d par the tenth (his first) before a 5-wood off the eleventh tee left him 73 yards to the flag.
“I actually looked for a ruling because the ball was in casual water,” he’d later explain, “but then I realised that there was nowhere to really drop it because everywhere was flooded so I decided to hit it from there and I actually holed it.”
It was an early sign that things might just go his way, and he’d add birdes at the par-5 16th and par-3 17th holes to male the turn at -4 and tied for the lead.
Two more birdies at the first and second holes saw him firmly take control and he’d stretch the advantage further with another at the sixth, before signing off with his sixth birdie of the day at the ninth, going bogey-free enroute to an incredible round of -8.
After a quick turnaround, he was back on the course with the unenviable task of trying to back up the morning’s heroics with victory on his mind as the tournament Committee opted to reduce the event to a 36-hole no cut format.
“It’s difficult to keep it going,” he said, “I mean you see it on tour all the time. It’s hard to follow up a really good round for whatever reason, but I got off to a great start.”
That he did by way of making an eagle-three at the par-5 first, meaning he’d covered 19 holes in -10, and picked up additional strokes at the third, ninth and 12th holes to get to -13.
His only bogey of the day came at the 16th, but he’d sign for a second-round 68 to take a commanding lead at -12, though there may yet be a sting in the tail.
“I think I’m six ahead at the minute with those guys having seven or so holes left, but there’s two guys on -4 and they’ve still got 18 to play so I’m hoping they don’t get a hot putter,” he said.
Among those with an outside chance of upsetting the apple cart for Mullarney is Paul Murphy who’d completed his opening round in three-under before play was suspended on Thursday, so the Rosslare man has a full round to complete.
“He texted me there a while ago and said I’ll need the round of my life to catch you, so I just replied and said ‘will you relax, three or four under will do you'” Mullarney joked, though should one of the chasing pack equal his 36-hole total, he’ll be in the unenviable position of making his first counting swings of the day in a playoff for the title.
Malahide’s Paul McBride and Mallow’s James Sugrue are in the same boat as Murphy, and they’ll begin their final rounds from -2 and -1 respectively.
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