McGinley stays on Fasth's tail

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The Independent Online

Paul Mcginley made a solid start in his "all or nothing" attempt to qualify for the Seve Ballesteros Trophy in the Madeira Island Open. The 33-year-old Irishman recorded a first-round 70, two under par, at Santo da Serra to lie four shots off the pace set by Sweden's Niclas Fasth, who carded a 66.

New Zealand's Elliot Boult, Nicolas Marin, of France, and the Swede Henrik Stenson shared second place on four under par on an unfamiliar-looking leaderboard.

McGinley needs a top-three finish this week to overtake Wales' Phil Price in the race to qualify for the Great Britain and Ireland team to play at Sunningdale next month. And with putting made difficult on the patchy greens - caused by diseased grass over the winter - McGinley was quietly satisfied with his opening day's work.

"Seventy is a good score," said the Dubliner who won the World Cup of Golf for Ireland with Padraig Harrington in 1997. "I'm pleased with that. I played very steady, hit a lot of greens and fairways without being spectacular. My two dropped shots were because of three putts from about 35 feet but I'm sure everybody will have tales of woe on the greens.

"There is a lot of grain in them and on both bogeys I was against the grain and left the first putt 6ft short. But there is a long way to go and I'll be wary of that over the weekend."

This event - with a top prize of £56,000 - represents McGinley's last chance to earn the £20,000 he needs to overhaul Price in the order of merit before the 9 April deadline as he has no intention of playing the next two weeks in Brazil. "It's all or nothing this week," McGinley insisted. "I'm playing the Sunningdale foursomes next week and then having a week off. I'm definitely not playing in Brazil even if Phil decides to."

McGinley was paired with Ballesteros, who will be playing captain of the European team from 14-16 April, but the Spaniard struggled to a four-over-par 76, with just one birdie on his card. The amateur champion, Graeme Storm, carded a four-over-par 76 as he prepared for his Masters debut at Augusta next month.


(GB unless stated)

60 N Fasth (Swe) 68 E Boult (NZ), N Marin (Fr), H Stenson (Swe) 69 M Lundberg (Swe), J Umbelino (Por), M Brier (Aut), C Hanell (Swe). Selected: 70 P McGinley (Irl), A Beal, J Bickerton; 74 J Rose; 76 S Ballesteros (Sp).