Players are feeling the pressure as NI Open gets underway

Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey
Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey

The pressure is on for the players competing this week at The Galgorm Resort & Spa NI Open, presented by Modest! Golf.

With eight events remaining on the Challenge Tour schedule everyone is chasing a spot in the top 15 on the Road to Al Khaimah standings which will guarantee them playing rights on the main European Tour for next season.

Defending champion Robin Sciot-Siegrist sits in 42nd place on the rankings and despite feeling some discomfort in his wrist, the left-hander says he is starting to rediscover the form which saw him come close to finishing inside the top 15 last year.

“It has been an okay season so far,” said the 24-year-old Frenchman who excelled in last year’s Shootout Sunday, winning five rounds of matchplay contests before defeating Italy’s Alessandro Tadini by two strokes in the final to seal victory.

“I had a good third place in Prague and although I am making quite a few cuts I haven’t really managed to get a lot of good points on the board.

“My right wrist is bothering me a bit – I am working with a physio to figure it out and hopefully it will be ok this week – but overall I feel that a good result is just around the corner.”

From a home perspective, Michael Hoey is the leading Irish contender ranked 26th in the standings.

And Hoey believes he still has the game to win on tour.

“Putting has been key. I’ve got a lot of confidence back with my putter and that feeds through the whole game. I do think when I’m playing well I can still win out here, but you still need to be realistic because there is such depth.”

“AQnd quality out here [on tour],” said Hoey who will tee off today alongside Sciot-Siegrist and Oliver Wilson at 1.30pm.

Ireland’s Gavin Moynihan is another player needing a strong end to the season if he wants to make that jump back on to the main tour.

“I’m going to focus on the Challenge Tour for now,” said the 23-year-old who is currently 80th in the rankings.

“It’s all about breaking into the top 50 so I can get into the China events. I played well in one of them last year and played well in the season-ending event finishing fourth. If I can get into the top 50 around the Irish Challenge at Concra Wood (Oct 4-7) then we will see what happens.”