Paul Dunne and Graeme McDowell lead home challenge at Irish Open

Shane Lowry shot an opening 68 at Portstewart
Michael McWilliams and Tony McGee

THE legions of home fans thronging the fairways of Portstewart would greatly appreciate a home victory in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation and a number of the local players look like they could make a brave effort to serve that up on Sunday evening. Michael McWilliams and Tony McGee assess how the Irish fared on day one

Paul Dunne (-5)

Upstaging many of the seasoned pros was Paul Dunne. Playing in only his second Irish Open – having missed the cut at The K Club last year – the former Walker Cup player from Greystones posted a 67 yesterday evening without a bogey on his card.

With birdies at the second and a hat-trick from the seventh hole, he turned in four-under 32 before pencilling in a steady back nine of eight pars and his fifth birdie of the day at the long 13th hole to share the Irish lead with Graeme McDowell and Gavin Moynihan.

“The Irish Open has always been a major for me – the fifth Major,” said Paul, who admitted that he scrambled his way round a bit.

“I feel that I really struggled my way from tee to green, all day. I kind of scrambled my way all around and when I had chances I took them.

“What pleased me most was keeping a bogey off my card. On a day when I felt that my game was struggling a little bit, it was nice to get in with a good score and something to build on.”

Gavin Moynihan (-5)

LATE in the day, Dunne and McDowell were joined at five-under by The Islander Gavin Moynihan, who got rid of his stumble early with bogey five at the second hole before making birdies at the fifth, seventh, eighth, 13th and 15th before a super finishing birdie on the home green.

Padraig Harrington (-4)

JUST one shot further back is 2007 champion Pádraig Harrington.

After starting on the 10th tee, he birdied the 13th and 15th holes and also the first, before his only mistake of the round, a bogey at the short third. Birdies at five and six brought him back to four-under 68.

Explained Harrington: “I played nice and average. If things had gone my way, I certainly could have made a few more under-par but four-under is kind of okay.

‘‘I expected low scoring and I knew I had to be patient with my own round because it wasn’t like I was holing too many putts to get under par quickly.

“I made a couple of late birdies that gave me a respectable score. ‘‘There is a little bit of pressure when you start out there because six or seven-under par is very on.

I don’t know if four-under par is in the mix but it is average, a respectable sore.

“My elbow was sore and I played very poorly in the pro-am. I ended up having to hit a substantial amount of drivers on the range. My elbow was sore last night.”

Shane Lowry (-4)

OFFALY’S finest got off to the best possible start with a birdie at his first hole, the 10th, and he didn’t concede a single blow to the Strand Course for the rest of the day.

A run of 11 straight pars followed that exciting opening before a strong finish saw Lowry pick up three more shots to take a share of 23rd at four-under, giving him the perfect platform to mount a challenge over the next three days.

Michael Hoey (-4)

HOEY lost his European Tour card at the end of last season but has been performing well on the second tier Challenge Tour of late and brought that form to the big stage yesterday.

The Belfast native’s highlight was an eagle three at the long seventh, with three more birdies mixed with just one dropped shot, at the ninth hole.

He is going the right way in terms of gaining his top level playing privileges, and he relished the chance to perform in front of a large local support yesterday.

“It’s phenomenal. It’s like an Open, you get all the excitement,” he said of his opening day experience.

Darren Clarke (+2)

LAST year’s Ryder Cup skipper had everything from a three to a seven during his round of 74, with an eagle at the seventh setting him up for a charge up the leaderboard.

However, a double-bogey at the next hole put the Dungannon man back to square one and he slipped backwards from there, with a triple-bogey seven at the tricky 17th leaving him struggling to make the halfway cut.

Paul McGinley (+4)

CLARKE’S predecessor in the Ryder Cup hotseat didn’t manage to make a birdie on a long afternoon that saw 14 pars and bogeys at the third, 12th, 17th and 18th.

A weekend off beckons unless he can turn things around rapidly this morning by finding some elusive birdies.

Irish scoreboard

67 G McDowell, P Dunne, G Moynihan

68 P Harrington, S Lowry, M Hoey

69 D Higgins

71 C Moriarty

72 R McIlroy, N O’Briain, D McElroy, G Hurley

73 S Thornton

74 R Kilpatrick, D Clarke

76 P McGinley, D McGrane

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