Michael Hoey’s two-over par 73 was the best the Irish could muster on day one of the Open de España.
The Ballymoney professional posted four bogeys and two birdies with his plus two total putting him just inside the top-100, albeit three shots off the current projected cut mark.
Gavin Moynihan was two-under after three holes but found no more birdies as a double and three further bogeys saw him finish a shot back of Hoey at plus-three.
While Paul Dunne, whose 8 missed cuts from 10 events between June and September saw him split with caddie Darren Reynolds last week as his search for form continues, faces another uphill battle to feature in a weekend field after managing just one birdie in a four-over par 75.
Adri Arnaus leads the home charge at the Mutuactivos Open de España, but sits two strokes behind Norway’s Kristian Krogh Johannessen, who carded an eight-under par 63 to lead at Club de Campo Villa de Madrid.
Johannessen, who started the day on the tenth tee, made the turn four under par after three birdies and an eagle, dropping his only shot of the day on the par four 16th hole, and made four more gains on the front nine, including a birdie on the ninth hole to reach eight under par.
Arnaus is one of five home hopefuls inside the top ten in the Spanish capital, carding a six under par round of 65 to take solo second. He made the turn at six under par after four birdies and an eagle on his front nine, and finished his round with a birdie on the ninth hole to cancel out a bogey on the fourth.
The 24-year-old, who graduated from the European Challenge Tour last season, is making just his second appearance in his national Open and has enjoyed a fine rookie year on the European Tour, with three runner-up finishes in 2019.
Defending champion and World Number Five Jon Rahm shares third place with compatriot Rafa Cabrera Bello and four other golfers on five under par. While one shot further back is Spanish pair Samuel Del Val and Adrian Otaegui, who carded four under par rounds of 67, sharing ninth with seven others.
“It’s a tough golf course, you need to drive it well – and I did,” said Rahm. “The greens were perfect, they are the best greens I’ve putted on in Spain in my career as an amateur and as a pro. Me, Rafa and Adri played really well, especially on that front nine Adri got it going really well and me and Rafa were trying to catch up.
“My biggest challenge early on, and the reason I missed so many putts, is because I was trying to get the pace of the greens. They were so fast. I was getting used to the speed and the changes from last week to this week. Yesterday I did struggle with ball striking, but I fixed it and stayed committed to the changes I made.”
“We all got it going and once we made the turn, everyone was there. Every time you’re hitting shots, even if you’re missing, you’re getting a lot of words of encouragement.”
Full scoring HERE
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