Unsung Cormac Sharvin closing in on dream Open place at Portrush
Ardglass ace Cormac Sharvin is bidding to become the fourth man from Northern Ireland into the field at The Open Championship after he continued to sparkle at the Irish Open at Lahinch.
In a week where the local highlights were expected to come from names such as Shane Lowry, Graeme McDowell and Padraig Harrington, it's World No.479 Sharvin who leads the home hopes this weekend.
The 26-year-old, who plays the majority of his golf on the European Tour's second tier, the Challenge Tour, and is only in the field on a sponsor's invite this week, fired a one-under 69 in his second round at the Co Clare links to sit in a tie for 12th at the halfway stage on five-under par, four shots behind leader Zander Lombard.
While Sharvin will undoubtedly have his sights set on potentially causing a major upset by winning the tournament outright, he will also be eyeing up one of three lucrative spots at Royal Portrush on offer as a consolation prize.
The top three finishers at Lahinch who are not already in the field for the final Major of the year will be invited to participate at the Dunluce Links in two weeks' time, with Sharvin eager to join McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke at his home Championship.
Overnight leader Harrington fell away in his second round, shooting a three-over-par 73 to fall to four-under, alongside another Irishman in Seamus Power, while Lowry is two-under.
It was not such a good day for McDowell, however, as he finished four-over par, missing the one-under cut mark by five strokes, while Clarke finished at seven-over par and will also miss the weekend.
But for Sharvin, things are looking particularly pretty, with the Ardglass man now eyeing up one of the three spots on offer at The Open.
In order to attain one, first he must break into the top 10 — at five-under he is currently lying 12th — and then finish as one of the top three players not already qualified for The Open.
At the moment, those three spots are being taken up by Wade Ormsby of Australia, Hyowon Park of Korea and Sweden’s Niklas Lemke, who are all placed higher than Sharvin in the world rankings, which is the tie-breaker if two players tie for the third and final place.
Sharvin will have plenty of confidence behind him, however, as he has been in good form recently having recorded top-10 finishes in three of his last five Challenge Tour starts, while he also has a 17th-placed finish in the European Tour’s Magical Kenyan Open this season.
Sharvin would have been on the European Tour this year had it not been for some horrendous luck at Q School — where players compete for Tour cards at the end of the season — when he was penalised two shots for teeing off in front of the tee markers at a hole and then proceeded to miss out on his card by one shot.
But, undeterred, the former Walker Cup star is making the most of his opportunity now, and he’s confident he can prove this is the level he belongs at.
“It’s great to be in contention in my home event. I’m so excited for the weekend now,” said Sharvin.
“I think for me, honestly, it’s just try and treat it like any other event. It would have been easy for me to come down here on Sunday and play 18 holes, but I played holes and played the Pro-Am and hopefully that will work.
“I came here to try and compete, I feel like I belong there and hopefully I can show that.
“It’s a cliché, one shot at a time, that’s what I have been doing and that’s what I plan on doing the rest of the weekend. I’m going to chill and be the best that I can.”
Meanwhile, Mexico’s Abraham Ancer admitted he’s loving his first experience of Ireland as he goes into the weekend tied third at seven-under.
The World No.59, who has exploded onto the scene this year, has seemingly mastered the links conditions and is eager to do well at Portrush in two weeks’ time.
“Ireland’s been good to me so far, the golf course is phenomenal and I’m really enjoying my time so far,” said Ancer.
“I want to get a lot more prep before The Open, so when I got the chance to play here it was a no brainer, and I really love links golf.”