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Michael Hoey and Cormac Sharvin make late bids to land places at The Open

Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey (Matt Mackey/PressEye)
Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey (Matt Mackey/PressEye)

By Brian Keogh

Time is running out to qualify for The Open, but NI duo Michael Hoey and Cormac Sharvin, as well as Irish golfers Seamus Power, Gavin Moynihan and Paul Dunne have another chance this week to book their tickets to Royal Portrush.

Power will be chasing one of two spots on offer in the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club, while Hoey, Dunne and Moynihan have their sights set on the three places reserved for the leading non-exempt players finishing in the top-10 in the Andalucía Masters at Valderrama.

While Dunne is among the 24 Irish players chasing 12 spots, three at each of the four Final Qualifying venues in the UK next Tuesday, he will have another chance to qualify for The Open at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in Lahinch next week, where there are three places on offer.

Host Paul McGinley yesterday announced the addition of singer Niall Horan to the star-studded field for next Wednesday’s pro-am alongside rugby greats Paul O’Connell and Keith Wood, racing legends Ruby Walsh and Ulsterman AP McCoy as well as GAA personalities Joe Canning, Cian Lynch, Shane O’Donnell, Davy Fitzgerald and Kieran Donaghy, while new Amateur champion James Sugrue will also tee it up.

However, the European Tour has warned fans hoping to see the weekend action in Co Clare to buy their tickets now rather than risk disappointment with a sell-out crowd looking likely for the Saturday and Sunday. A limited number of tickets for Saturday and Sunday remain and fans are advised to buy their tickets online.

Ardglass golfer Cormac Sharvin will be in Lahinch and at Final Qualifying for The Open next week.

But he’s a man on a mission this week and feeling confident as he prepares to battle high temperatures in the Italian Challenge Open at Terre dei Consoli.

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The 2015 Walker Cup star is joined near Rome by Daniel Peacock, Gary Hurley and Ruaidhri McGee as Darren Clarke makes his debut in the US Senior Open at the Warren Golf Course in Indiana — the home of the Fighting Irish, the University Notre Dame.

The Dungannon man will tee it up with Mark O’Meara and Tom Lehman before he returns home for what promises to be a spectacular Irish Open.

Meanwhile, Kilkenny’s Mark Power and Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty are also dreaming of Royal Portrush after opening with five-under 67s to share third place at the European Amateur Championship in Austria.

With the winner awarded a place in The Open, they’re just a shot behind Australia’s Blake Windred and New Zealander Daniel Hillier, who raced out of the blocks with six-under 66s at Diamond Country Club.

And two weeks after describing his own game as “horrible”, Sergio Garcia will aim to continue his remarkable love affair with Valderrama when his foundation hosts the Estrella Damm NA Andalucia Masters.

Garcia (below) is seeking a fourth straight win in the event, first claiming the title in 2011 before it dropped off the European Tour schedule for five years and then winning in both 2017 and 2018 when bad weather meant a 54-hole event and a Monday finish.

In total, Garcia has recorded 13 top-10 finishes in 14 appearances at Valderrama, but comes into the week on a downbeat note after missing the cut in three of his last four starts to slip outside the world’s top 30. 

On the one occasion Garcia did play all four rounds he opened with a 69 in the US Open but dismissed his chances of winning at Pebble Beach and said his round mixed good shots with ones where he “looked like a 25-handicapper”.

A second round of 70 left Garcia just outside the top 10 at halfway, but the 39-year-old carded rounds of 75 and 74 at the weekend to finish 52nd, the first time he had made the cut in a Major since the 2017 Open. 

“Coming back to Spain is always special, but to come back to Valderrama, my favourite golf course where I have done so well, it’s really, really something else,” Garcia said. “I’m excited about it, excited about the week, excited about the tournament.

“It’s true that I haven’t won this year, but I wouldn’t call it a bad year. I have played some good tournaments, but my sensations have not been consistently good. I am looking to recover my good sensations for the rest of the season and this week could be the turning point.”

Meanwhile, Modest! Golf Management, owned by former One Direction star Niall Horan and Mark McDonnell, have signed up Ryder Cup star and world top 50 player Tyrrell Hatton.

The 27-year-old is one of the management company’s highest profile signings to date.

“Modest! Golf have a growing reputation on tour,” said Hatton.

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