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Gavin Moynihan determined to kickstart campaign with surprise Irish Open outing

 

By Brian Keogh

Gavin Moynihan is treating the $7m (£5.3m) Dubai Duty Free Irish Open as a mid-season bonus after enduring a nightmare start to his rookie campaign.

The Malahide star (23) made his first cut for eight months in the SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge just two weeks ago after failing to make a cheque in 13 starts on all tours since he won his card at the Q-School last November.

Barring a massive result in Ballyliffin this week - he'd need a top-seven finish just to break into the top 100 in the Race to Dubai - he's decided to concentrate on the Challenge Tour for the rest of the season.

But after picking up €84,505 (£74,774) after a final-round 64 gave him a share of 14th behind Jon Rahm at Portstewart last year, he's not ruling out another lucrative Irish Open week on links terrain.

Thrilled to get a last-minute sponsor's invitation just last Friday, Moynihan said: "The ideal situation is to win, obviously, but I am just delighted to be here, so it's all a bonus.

"Like last year, I am just going to try and enjoy it and do as well as I can. To be honest, I'd given up all hope of getting in until I got the call on Friday, so it's a big bonus just to be here."

Moynihan earned €100,000 (£88,484) when he teamed up with Paul Dunne to win the innovative GolfSixes event in London in May.

But while that was an unofficial event that didn't count on the money list, he sees no reason why he can't give his confidence, and his bank balance, another boost in Ballyliffin this week, where he will be joined by fellow Team Ireland Golf grant recipients Cormac Sharvin, Ruaidhri McGee and Neil O'Briain.

He said: "I played Portmarnock yesterday and The Island for the last two days, so I know what to expect as they are the firmest two courses in Ireland right now.

"My caddie said they are watering the course here and it is greener than he thought, but with the good players that are here, the scores will be good, no matter how firm it is."

As for his form, he insisted he was confident it would come around sooner or later, confessing: "There hasn't been much wrong - just one bad hole in every event was killing me.

"So I took two weeks off for my head more than anything because I knew a good event was coming and thankfully it came in Scotland."

Moynihan's problem was that he was forced to hit the road straight after winning his tour card last year and never got a chance to have a bit of a rest.

"You know you want and need a break, but when you get those early season starts you just have to play," he said, referring to long-distance trips to Mauritius and South Africa straight after Q-School.

"If you play well at the start of the year, you can stick with the main tour, but if not, you have to look to the Challenge Tour and that's what I'm doing now."

Meanwhile, Simon Thornton hailed the inaugural Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Qualifier as a massive success but confessed he'd still like to see the winner of the domestic Order of Merit awarded an exemption.

The former European Tour winner won one of four coveted spots in this week's Irish Open at Ballyliffin when he claimed the €40,000 (£35,393) qualifier at Rosapenna on Sunday.

The Newcastle native (41) beat Old Conna's O'Briain in a play-off for the €6,000 (£5,309) top prize at Rosapenna as Glasson's Colm Moriarty came third and Monkstown professional Cian McNamara edged out Waterford's Kevin Phelan in another play-off for the final spot.

In previous years, the top six finishers on the PGA in Ireland's Order of Merit got to tee it up in the following season's Irish Open. But the advent of the Rolex Series means that all Irish PGA professionals, six amateurs nominated by the GUI and a host of Irish mini tours regulars got the chance to play for just four spots alongside the superstars in a new 36-hole qualifying event last weekend.

Thornton said: "The qualifying has been brilliant. It creates a bit of buzz. I think the idea of the qualifier is very good. But I do think the Order of Merit winner should get one slot - perhaps we should be playing off for three.

"It has created a bit of interest among local professionals that we all have a chance. There is the added fact that the boys who have done well at the time are now playing in the Irish Open rather than someone who played well last year. It is positive."

Belfast Telegraph

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