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Ulster golfer Stephanie Meadow set to live out her American dream

By Peter Hutcheon

A brilliant six under round of 66 at qualifying school has put Ulster's Stephanie Meadow right on course to clinch her place on the LPGA Tour in America next season.

And it could have been even better as she reached the 18th at the Hills course in Florida on seven under par for the day and for the tournament, only to drop a shot on the closing hole.

Still, it left her well inside the top 10 with the top 20 earning their playing rights on the main ladies tour in the US next season.

Stephanie had begun the day in a tie for 46th place after a steady, but disappointing, level par round of 72 at the neighbouring Jones course in the first round.

Then she had let a good position slip but that was not going to be the case yesterday as she reached the turn at two under with birdies on the 13th and 15th holes, after starting her round form the 10th.

It was then that her round really caught fire as she birdied four holes in a row from the second to the fifth to move to six under for the round and for the event.

A seventh birdie followed at the par five eighth hole, but she handed that shot back at the last, her only blemish of the day.

It was a timely reminder of the sort of play which earned Stephanie third place at the US Open this summer in her first event since turning professional.

She had hoped to avoid qualifying school altogether and earn enough through invitations to head straight to the main tour, but that didn't quite work out as planned.

Stephanie was only three off the overall lead held by American Casey Grace last night, but more importantly was five clear of the group tied for 23rd place outside the qualifying positions.

Tiger Woods' niece Cheyenne Woods was just two back at the start of yesterday's second round, but a seven over 79 has left her well off the pace.

The qualifying school is played over five rounds with the final round on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Graeme McDowell produced a superb opening round at the Hero World Challenge.

The Ulsterman shot a four under par 68, just two off the pace set by American Jordan Spieth in the $3.5million event which is hosted by Tiger Woods at his Isleworth Club in Florida.

Local knowledge, however, didn't do much for the 14-times Major winner who slumped to a five over par 77.

Woods' much-anticipated comeback did not go to plan.

The 38-year-old has been out since failing to make the cut at the PGA Championship in August, having struggled to get back into shape following surgery on a pinched nerve in his back earlier in the year.

Woods struggled badly, with four bogeys, one double bogey and a birdie seeing him occupy last place in the 18-man field.

Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson are tied second, one ahead of McDowell.

Ross Fisher sits two shots clear at the top of the leaderboard after an impressive first day at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa.

Beginning the 2015 Race to Dubai in style, the 34-year-old Englishman completed a six under par 66, dropping just one shot in the first round.

That fine start gives Fisher daylight to South Africa's George Coetzee, Marcel Siem of Germany and Frenchman Alexander Levy, who all shot 68s, at the Gary Player Country Club in Sun City.

Fisher said: "One bogey and seven birdies for a round of six under on this golf course - I'll definitely take that and run."

Belfast Telegraph


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