Ruaidhri McGee is hoping he can build on his promising start to the European Challenge Tour season at this week’s dual-ranking Open de Portugal at Morgado Resort.
The Irishman arrives in Portimao full of confidence after a top-five finish at the Turkish Airlines Challenge – his first start on the 2017 Road to Oman.
The 26 year old only earned his place in the field in Antalya through a sponsor’s invite, but the Londonderry native made the most of his chance by recording his best finish on the Challenge Tour in two seasons.
Back-to-back 66s had pushed McGee back into the top 20 after the opening round in Turkey, but he really came alive during the final round, battling strong winds to card one of only five under par rounds that day.
That fourth-place finish ensured McGee qualified for this week, and he is aware he now has a golden opportunity with the lion’s share of a € 500,000 purse and European Tour card on offer for the winner this week.
“It’s great to be here,” he said. “I finished in fourth place which guaranteed my place in the field this week, and I am really chuffed as this is a great event.
“It’s huge as it’s great money and it’s early on in the season, so if you get a good result it can set you up really nicely for the rest of the year.
“The first three days were pretty calm and everyone was just shooting really good scores. But on the final day it was really windy and it was nice to go out there and move up the leaderboard without having to make a really low score.
“It was nice to get a good finish in my first event of the season. I wasn’t expecting much going into the week, but after putting in the performance I did I am feeling really good.”
After swapping Belfast for the warmer climes of the Algarve this winter, McGee admits he is well accustomed to life in the region on and off the course – something he will look to exploit this week.
“I’ve been down here for a bit of the winter practising, so I know the courses and the surrounding area pretty well,” he said. “I’m pretty comfortable here so I really like it – it’s good.
“It’s really handy to get here from home, the weather is great and the people here are also really friendly, so it is a great place to come over the winter.”
McGee, who has played in two previous dual-ranking events, knows all about the fierce levels of competition when European Tour and Challenge Tour players lock horns.
Now into his fourth season on Europe’s top developmental tour, the experienced Irishman is feeling relaxed heading into the Challenge Tour’s most lucrative event of the season.
“I think this event is a bigger event but you can’t treat it any differently,” he said. “You’ve got to go in the same way and just do what you do normally – that’s play golf.
“The forecast says it is going to be a little bit stormy at the start of the tournament. That would be good for me as when there is a bit of wind it makes it a bit more fun in my opinion. Hopefully it’s just like it was in Turkey on the final day!”