Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Hoey aims for Order of Merit

Michael Hoey aims to return to the European Tour in style this year by winning the Challenge Tour Order of Merit.

The Belfast man, fresh from his Moroccan Open victory at the weekend, says merely re-gaining his European Tour card by finishing in the top 20 isn't enough now.

"Anyone who wins a tournament is going to feel like they can go on to win the Order of Merit," he said at the launch of the Challenge Ireland tournament in Glasson yesterday which will be played in August.

"But the win has taken me up to sixth place and I really feel that I'm playing well enough to go on and win again and finish first on the Order of Merit." Hoey won on the Challenge Tour this time last year in Italy but says that his game is in completely different shape now compared to then.

"Morocco was a really tough course to play so to win there means a great deal more," he said.

"I've done a lot of work on my short game over the winter and it's in great shape and that's the key to playing well really."

Playing with former Masters champion Mike Weir, amongst others, at last year's World Cup in China when he represented Ireland along with Ballyclare's Gareth Maybin, convinced Hoey that he could find his way back on to the European Tour.

"You're there hitting great shots just after they have hit great shots and you're thinking that there's really not that much difference," he says. We played some great golf in Aruba to qualify for the World Cup and played some great golf in China too, although the finish was a little disappointing." The Ulster pair are unlikely to get chance to repeat their heroics with the likes of Padraig Harrington and Darren Clarke showing more interest in playing this time around.

But Hoey has enough on his plate trying to regain his Tour card after losing it in 2006. His win in Morocco earned him a late invitation to play in next week's Irish Open £ the letter only dropped on his doorstep on Tuesday morning.

"I'm much more confident going to Adare this time than I was last year. I finished third there in the Irish PGA in 2000 and I know it'll be set up differently next week but it's good playing a course where you have done well in the past."

So confident was Hoey in his game in north Africa last week that he hit drivers off the fairway at times, a tactic which led to a third round birdie which kept him in the hunt.

"The ball was sitting up pretty well because of the type of grass on the fairways but I don't think I'll be doing it again at Adare," he said.

A first round 67 put Hoey right in contention last week and he remained there throughout the tournament, at one stage holding a three-shot lead on the back nine. But a couple of dropped shots saw that lead disappear and he had to dig deep over the closing holes to win by one.

"Sometimes the leaderboards on the Challenge Tour can be wrong so I wasn't taking anything for granted," he explained. "It was very tiring because we were playing earlier than we had been in the week and it was extremely hot and I got a little sloppy on the back nine. "When I dropped a shot on the tough par three 16th I knew I had to get it together and I holed a putt from 20-feet for birdie on the 17th. I knew it was in from the moment I hit it. "I still wasn't sure if a par five on the last would win it or get me in to a play-off but I played it safe anyway because it's a tough hole to drive.

"I hit a wedge in from 60 yards for my third and then rolled it up to the hole for a tap-in and then people came on to the green to congratulate me and that was when I knew I had won."

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