Lonard keeps his eye in on day of Spanish aces

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The Independent Online

Two Spaniards hit holes in one, but it was Australia Day at the Nissan Irish Open at County Louth yesterday. Santiago Luna hit his ace at the 173-yard fifth, then Jose Manual Carriles followed suit on the 167-yard 15th, (for which he won a £42,000 car) but they both came in with 71s, seven shots behind the leaders Peter Lonard and Nick O'Hern.

Two Spaniards hit holes in one, but it was Australia Day at the Nissan Irish Open at County Louth yesterday. Santiago Luna hit his ace at the 173-yard fifth, then Jose Manual Carriles followed suit on the 167-yard 15th, (for which he won a £42,000 car) but they both came in with 71s, seven shots behind the leaders Peter Lonard and Nick O'Hern.

Another Aussie, Brett Rumford, would have been only one behind but for a closing bogey.

Lonard's was the most remarkable effort. On Tuesday he was at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London for laser treatment and he did not know until a check-up 24 hours later that he would be able to play. Cleared to do so, the 37 year old flew to Dublin, walked nine holes of the course - one he had never played before - and then went out and collected an eagle and seven birdies, just like O'Hern.

In 1993, Lonard contracted the Ross River Fever virus through a mosquito bite, and was told he had been left with the binocularity of a 60 year old. He had three years out of the game, then had the initial laser treatment in 1997 and went back this week because he felt his right eye had deteriorated.

"I phoned them on Monday as I thought something was not quite right," he said. "They stuck me in on Tuesday, fiddled around and I had to go back Wednesday morning for some follow-up stuff. It's fantastic. I caught up with my caddie and said I thought he had better have a look at the course. That's the routine for the rest of my life now!"

Rumford's late slip dropped him into a tie for third spot with the Scot Stephen Gallacher and England's Simon Wakefield, the latter suddenly finding form after four successive missed cuts.

Seventeen years after his last Ryder Cup appearance Sandy Lyle still harbours the dream of playing for Europe one more time - a dream that looked rather less distant after he hit a five under par 67. "It's a mighty leap, but you've got to keep something in your mind," said the 46-year-old Scot.

Ian Poulter, 10th in the points race for Cup, suffered a real setback in his bid for a debut by slumping to a 75.

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