GOLF: Putting pracice for Michael Hoey after shooting two-under on day one of NI Open

Michael Hoey and Chase Koepka
Michael Hoey and Chase Koepka

It was straight to the putting practice green after a NI Open first round two-under par 69 for Michael Hoey yesterday evening at Galgorm Castle.

The Northern Ireland Open tournament ambassador and host club represetnative left at least three birdies on a course which did not score as low as had been expected pre-event.

Hoey had a superb eagle on the par five ninth to send him into the turn at two-under.

Buoyed by that he birdied the par four 10th to go to three under.

But his putter was to let him down on 12 and 13 and then an overshoot from the tee on the par three 14th, saw him drop a shot to go back to two-under.

A superb bunker shot on the 17th got him out of trouble to save par, but another missed birdie putt on 18 saw Hoey unable to better his position.

However, it is all about ensuring the cut is made ahead of a new format for the competition.

The year’s event will have a 36-hole cut as normal to reduce the field to the leading 60 players and ties.

After tomorrow’s third round there will be another cut with the top 24 players making it through to Shootout Sunday, where five rounds of six-hole stroke play matches will decide the winner.

Players are still digesting this week’s new tournament format and adjusting their strategies accordingly.

Hoey’s playing partners for the first two rounds, Chase Koepka and Borja Virto had mixed fortunes.

Koepka, brother of US Open winner, Brooks, finished one under having lost a ball on the ninth.

That bogey saw him return to level par having birdied the par fourth sixth and he picked up another birdie on 15 with a superb second shot to the pin.

Spaniard Virto had an inconsistent day, and a seven on the par four 13 where he hit out of bounds and then deep rough with his third off the tee.

He picked up a birdie on the 17th to leave him two over for the afternoon.

Hoey headed for the putting green after his round following an inconsistent display on the greens.

“Yeah, I missed a few out there today, but hopefully I can make up for it in the morning.

“I will head to the practice green and I’ll do a bit on stability, just taking the hands out of the stroke.

“I probably should have been up to four or five under but still, if that’s the worst round I shoot, that’s not too bad.”