Sport

Daniel Im and Benjamin Hebert share first round lead at Irish Open

Daniel Im takes a share of the lead into Friday's second round with Benjamin Hebert Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
From Tony McGee at Portstewart

A COUPLE of unlikely challengers emerged at the top of the leaderboard on day one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart late yesterday as David Im and Benjamin Hebert shared eight-under par 64 for a one-stroke lead over more fancied John Rahm, Matthew Southgate and Oli Fisher.

Neither of the leaders have done anything of note to make them short-priced for success but both have set themselves up for, at the very least, a good pay week, if not the coveted title.

Im, from New Jersey but living in California, has had spells on the PGA Canadian Tour and the European Challenge Tour from which he qualified for the full European Tour with one win to his credit. He won twice in Canada but yesterday exceeded anything he has done in the past, sprinkling eight birdies over his flawless card.

From the second hole, he went birdie three, two, four and three, proving that he could handle the holes no matter what the length. On the back nine he bagged birdie fours at 13 and 14 to complete his haul of one-unders.

About his six-under par over his first eight holes he commented: “I got a bit lucky at the first few holes. I pulled it off the tee at the first hole, got a good lie and got up-and-down for par. At the second, I hit a really good approach, second shot and it hit the pin. It stayed just about one foot away from the hole.

“Then I chipped in at the third and at the fourth I missed the shot off the tee, got it out on to the fairway, hit it close and made birdie. The putts were dropping so I sort of kept myself going.”

He added: “I guess my game is pretty decent overall. I’m not overly long off the tee and I like to be quite aggressive with my second shot so, I guess, that’s where my confidence comes from.”

Im was fortunate to keep his ETP Card at the end of last season but his goal this year is to make it to Dubai at the end of this term. If he keeps playing like this he should have no trouble but the next few days will tell the tale of his chances of being a shock winner of the Irish Open.

The same applies to Frenchman Benjamin Hebert. The joint leader was, also steady as a rock, never dropping a shot and pencilling in eight birdies. He liked to glue them together too.

After a two at the short third hole, he went 2-4-3 at the sixth, seventh and eighth for an outward run of 32. On the way home, three straight pars were followed by a quad of birdies (4-4-2-3) before two pars to finish.

The 30-year-old Hebert graduated from the Challenge Tour in 2014 with six wins to his credit, being the third most successful Challenge Tour player. He won the European Amateur Championship in 2007 and last season finished 64th on the full tour.

“When I stood on the first tee this afternoon I never thought that I’d be walking off with a 64 because my last round wasn’t very good,” he said. “The four birdies in a row, yet it could have been five as I was only a few inches short on 18. But I holed some very important ones too. I played very good. I missed only one green – no bogeys, very good.”

Just one shot adrift are John Rahm, Oli Fisher and Matthew Southgate with Jamie Donaldson, David Drysdale and Matthew Fitzpatrick on 66.

Six-footer Fisher shot down five birdies in a row from the fourth hole, added two more at 10 and 11, highlighted his card with a golden eagle at the long 13th and made birdie four at14. He lost shots, however, at the third, 12th and 18th hole, the last bogey denying him a share of the lead.

FIRST ROUND SCORES

Gbr & Irl unless stated)

(a) denotes amateurs

Irish players in bold text

64 Daniel Im (USA), Benjamin Hebert (Fra)

65 Jon Rahm (Spa), Matthew Southgate, Oliver Fisher

66 David Drysdale, Jamie Donaldson, Matthew Fitzpatrick

67 Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn), Graeme McDowell, Ryan Fox (Nzl), David Horsey, Paul Peterson (USA), Felipe Aguilar (Col), Anthony Wall, Duncan Stewart, Stephen Gallacher, Justin Rose, Gavin Moynihan, Paul Dunne, Fabrizio Zanotti (Par), Wade Ormsby (Aus)

68 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Simon Dyson, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa), Peter Hanson (Swe), Shane Lowry, Adrian Otaegui (Spa), Bradley Dredge, Soomin Lee (Kor), Michael Hoey, Richard Bland, Richie Ramsay, Paul Waring, Callum Shinkwin, Gary Stal (Fra), Rikard Karlberg (Swe), Haotong Li (Chn), Andres Romero (Arg), Ian Poulter, Padraig Harrington

69 Ricardo Gouveia (Por), Jens Fahrbring (Swe), Mikko Ilonen (Fin), Joakim Lagergren (Swe), Robert Karlsson (Swe), Peter Uihlein (USA), Marc Warren, David Higgins, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa), Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Stuart Manley, Romain Langasque (Fra), Lee Slattery, Raphael Jacquelin (Fra), Victor Dubuisson (Fra), Sam Walker, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa), Paul Lawrie, Gary Hurley, Jordan Smith, Nino Bertasio (Ita)

70 Maximilian Kieffer (Ger), Renato Paratore (Ita), Scott Jamieson, Jason Scrivener (Aus), Dean Burmester (Rsa), Robert Rock, Tommy Fleetwood, Eduardo De La Riva (Spa), Alejandro Canizares (Spa), Thomas Detry (Bel), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), Julien Quesne (Fra), Hennie Otto (Rsa), Daniel Brooks, Ashley Chesters, Dermot Mcelroy, Hideto Tanihara (Jpn), Johan Carlsson (Swe), Marcel Siem (Ger), Chris Hanson, Gregory Bourdy (Fra), Sam Brazel (Aus)

71 Marcus Armitage, Andrew Johnston, Matt Wallace, Thomas Aiken (Rsa), Shih-Chang Chan (Tpe), Joost Luiten (Ned), Jaco Van Zyl (Rsa), Danny Willett, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha), Scott Hend (Aus), David Lipsky (USA), Marcus Fraser (Aus), Colm Moriarty, Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Matthieu Pavon (Fra), Andrew Dodt (Aus), James Morrison, Romain Wattel (Fra), Thorbjorn Olesen (Den), Dylan Frittelli (Rsa), Bernd Ritthammer (Ger)

72 Ashun Wu (Chn), Matteo Manassero (Ita), Nathan Kimsey, Jose-Maria Olazabal (Spa), Rory McIlroy, Nacho Elvira (Spa), Alexander Knappe (Ger), Joel Stalter (Fra), Magnus A Carlsson (Swe), Damien Perrier (Fra), Kristoffer Broberg (Swe), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), George Coetzee (Rsa), Simon Khan, Neil O’Briain, Andy Sullivan, Richard Finch

73 Lasse Jensen (Den), Sebastian Heisele (Ger), Jorge Campillo (Spa), Brandon Stone (Rsa), Graeme Storm, Trevor Immelman (Rsa), Niclas Fasth (Swe), Thomas Bjorn (Den), Mark Foster, Simon Thornton, Alexander Levy (Fra), Richard Sterne (Rsa), Thomas Pieters (Bel)

74 Brett Rumford (Aus), Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Tha), Richard Kilpatrick, Alexander Bjork (Swe), David Howell, Justin Walters (Rsa), Darren Clarke, Gregory Havret (Fra)

75 S.S.P Chawrasia (In), Tyrrell Hatton, Darren Fichardt (Rsa), Chris Paisley, Florian Fritsch (Ger), Alvaro Quiros (Spa)

76 Jose-Filipe Lima (Por), Damien McGrane, Jeunghun Wang (Kor), Pep Angles (Spa), Paul McGinley, Lee Westwood

82 Sebastien Gros (Fra)

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