EUROPEAN TOUR

Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney shoots best ever 66 on moving day at the Golf in Dubai Championship

Aaron Murphy  

Niall Kearney . Photo by Golffile

Niall Kearney continued his very impressive form at the Golf in Dubai Champion. Kearney followed up yesterday’s 67 with a sizzling 66 at the Jumeirah Golf Estate to leave him in a share of 21st place and a top 10 finish well within his sights.

The Dubliner began his round with a birdie on the par 4 1st and collected another birdie on the par 5 7th to make the turn on two under par.

He had his only bogey of the round on the par 3 11th but then had birdies on the par 4 12th and par 3 14th, then got an incredible eagle on the par 4 16th before finishing it off with another birdie on the final hole.

Kearney made the cut at Qualifying School last year to secure a full season on the Challenge Tour and minor status on the main circuit. Tomorrow is a very big day for the two time Irish PGA winner as he eyes his best ever finish on the European Tour and certainly his biggest payday.

England’s Andy Sullivan set the new course record with his opening round of 61 before adding a patient 66 on Thursday to sit at 17 under - three shots clear of fellow Englishman Matt Wallace.

After a 45 minute delay to the start of the third round due to the fog, conditions were suited for the players to be aggressive at the pins with the greens playing soft.

And with the front nine playing slightly easier than earlier in the week, players at the top of the leaderboard took full advantage with a frenzy of red numbers.

Four time European Tour winner Sullivan showed his experience as he carded three birdies to reach 20 under par after nine holes, with playing partner Ross Fisher and Italian Francesco Laporta sitting in second place at 16 under.

Robert MacIntyre was the main beneficiary of the front nine as he turned in for 29 courtesy of five birdies and an eagle to become the lead contender before a double bogey at the 11th saw him slip back.

Sullivan made a fast start with a birdie from six feet at the first to get to 18 under, with Wallace following suit from concessional range.

MacIntyre, who started the day on ten under, also opened up with a birdie and was dialled in with irons on Friday, with his tee shot to the par three second rolling to four feet and he went even closer at the third to pick up two more strokes.

His birdie trail did not stop there as he holed a 12 foot effort at the next and when he made five in a row at the fifth, he was in a tie for second on 15 under.

Sullivan lipped out a putt for a gain at the second to remain three ahead as the final playing group of himself, Wallace and Fisher, who made a superb par save at the fourth to remain bogey free for the tournament, parred the next three.

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Andy Sullivan. Photo by Golffile

MacIntyre found the rough with his tee shot at the par five seventh but produced a wonderful five wood with his second to 21 feet before rolling in the eagle putt to sit within one of leader Sullivan on 17 under.

Five groups ahead, MacIntyre strayed into the rough at the eighth but his chip raced by the pin to leave a 44 foot putt for par.

The Scot held his nerve to salvage the par, which proved crucial as Sullivan moved two ahead to 19 under with a birdie at the fifth.

Laporta rolled in five birdies in his first seven holes and Frenchman Antoine Rozner, who was three under through five, joined Wallace on 15 under as the chasing pack continued to pick up shots.

MacIntyre had another birdie chance at the ninth but he could not hole it as he finished his front nine in seven under, while at the sixth, Sullivan was inches from adding a gain of his own.

Fisher rolled in his first birdie at the same hole to reach 15 under, with Scotland's Craig Howie increasing the group to five when he tapped in for a gain at the seventh.

Howie's playing partner Rozner produced a great bunker shot to seven feet at the same hole to card another birdie to nudge ahead on his own at 16 under.

Sullivan left his eagle putt inches short at the seventh and when he tapped in for birdie, he was at 20 under.

Fisher made successive gains to sit alongside Rozner at 16 under and Wallace joined them at that mark with a short range birdie.

A par at the eighth was enough for Sullivan to increase his lead to four shots as MacIntyre three putted at the 11th for a double bogey, but Fisher recorded his third birdie in a row to reduce the gap to three.

Wallace went right off the tee before being hampered with his third shot as he bogeyed the ninth as Sullivan calmly rolled in his par putt to remain at 20 under.

Fisher missed a short par putt to record his first bogey of the week to slip back to 16 under and was joined by Laporta after he rolled in his sixth birdie of the day at the 12th.

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