Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Mac makes an early move up the Belfry leaderboard

A birdie at just his third hole as a professional helped settle any nerves Rory McIlroy might have been feeling as he took his place in the field at the Quinn Direct British Masters at the Belfry today.

It immediately took him into a share of sixth place which, although means next to nothing in the first few holes of a tournament, won't have done him any harm either.

The 18-year-old began his professional career in auspiciously on the tenth hole this morning and began with two slid par fours.

But his approach to the par three third was a good one and he converted it for the birdie to go to one under, a good start to a tournament by any standard.

The early lead at two under was taken by McIlroy's Walker Cup teammate Lloyd Saltman, also making his professional debut, as he reached two under after five.

Darren Clarke began his tournament with pars at the tenth and 11th holes while Graeme McDowell was level after one.

McDowell was disappointed not to have been named as one of Nick Faldo's wild card choices for next week's Seve Trophy at the Heritage Club in Laois.

Faldo opted for Englishman Simon Dyson and Scot Marc Warren to complete his team for the match with Seve's Continental Europeans.

Meanwhile Ireland went into their match against England in the Home Internationals at Baltray today still ruing their failure to see off Scotland on the opening day.

Scott Henry was able to come from behind, winning the last hole to beat the home side's Conor Doran to take what had looked an improbable halved match overall.

It was an excellent senior debut for Portstewart's Paul Cutler, the reigning Ulster Boys champion.

He had a mammoth seven and six victory in his singles match Kevin McAlpine, a reservist for the Walker Cup, as Ireland tightened their grip in the match.

The Irish had taken a two-point lead from the morning foursomes and were sitting pretty with a point each from Cutler and Shane Lowry in the opening two singles matches.

But the Scots fought back with Doran struggling against Henry, four down after 11 holes.

Then there came a mistake from a rules official after the Scot had pocketed his ball after Doran had asked him to mark it from just short of the green.

A ball can only be pocketed if it has been marked on the putting surface.

The official's mistake, though, was to award the hole to Doran rather than impose a one-shot penalty.

The Scots, who were annoyed at Doran for bringing the original transgression to the attention of the rules official in the first place, might have taken the whole thing further had not Henry gone on to win the match.

England also had to fight back in their match against Wales to earn a share of the points as the championships remain evenly poised with nothing to separate the sides.

Richard Kilpatrick lies right on the cut-off point at the European Tour qualifying school at St Annes Old Links in Blackpool.

After two rounds he is on 145, needing a place in the top 32 to progress to Spain.

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