Hend moves into contention in Ireland

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Big-hitting Scott Hend equalled the course record as he not only strives to capture a third European Tour title with victory at the Irish Open but to qualify for next month’s United States PGA Championship.

Hend, 44, eagled the 15th and grabbed six birdies in a superb bogey-free eight-under score in ideal conditions at Portstewart.

With a round play in the $US 7 million event, Hend finds himself sharing sixth place and only four strokes from the leading duo of Jon Rahm and Daniel Im.

Hend’s effort is also his equal-lowest on the Tour, with four prior rounds of 64 and the last being a seven-under 64 in the 2016 KLM Open in Holland.

"Given the conditions, the golf course today was there to be had,’’ he said. “So, eight-under was a good score but I expect the leaders to finish somewhere around the 17 and 18-under mark by the end of the day.

“The first two days here I did not hole any putts and today it was like I holed everything and it has been like for weeks and weeks and weeks. But then if I can go out there on the last day and throw a little seven or another eight-under in there, then you never know given the forecast tomorrow as it does not look all that inviting with pretty dirty weather.”

Hend arrived in Northern Ireland having fallen to 101st on the World Rankings and the first occasion since March 2016 the Townsville-born player has been outside of the top-100. Having contested just a first PGA Championship a year ago the Florida-based Aussie is keen to get back inside the top-100 and be assured of teeing-up at Quail Hollow on August 10.

“I would just love to contest the PGA Championship as Quail Hollow is just one of my favourite golf courses in the U.S. but then I am not too sure when the cut-off date it”, he said. “So, that is the big goal this week to get myself back and inside the top-100.

“But then I have also the chance next fortnight at The Open but then if I can have a good last round here in Ireland and take this form across to Scotland then you never know.’’

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