Robin Dawson and Paul McBride moved up the grid early after the pair returned four-under par rounds of 68 at the MENA Tour’s Bahrain Open.
Dawson, who endured a difficult start to his Challenge Tour campaign in South Africa, looks like he’s gained plenty from the experience after hitting the ground running at Royal Golf Club.
The Tramore professional fired four birdies and an eagle amongst his opening salvo to sit alongside McBride in a share of fifth at minus-four.
Meanwhile McBride, who banked a top-5 finish at last week’s Ghala Open, continued his fine form with seven birdies on his scorecard to match Dawson’s 68 of the opening day.
The pair trail a three-way tie for top spot by two strokes and head an otherwise tame Irish challenge with Rory McNamara and Conor O’Rourke struggling to one-over par rounds of 73 on the opening day.
Amateurs Dan Byrne (77) and Ronan Armstrong (81) endured tough but no doubt worthwhile lessons over the first 18 holes of play.
Joel Girrbach, playing his first competitive round in three months after losing his European Tour card last year, saw his hard work paying off as he took the joint lead in the $75,000 event following a solid round of six-under par 66.
On Tuesday at the Royal Golf Club, the 26-year-old Swiss was even-par for his round after successive bogeys on the seventh and eighth holes but covered his last 10 holes in six-under par to join Germany’s Max Kramer and England’s David Hague on top of the leaderboard.
“I haven’t played a competitive round after missing out at the second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School. It was a disappointing season and I put in a lot of work in my technique. This is the first competing round for me to see where my game is and I am very pleased,” said Girrbach.
“I felt ready after the winter work and I was looking for tournaments to play. With my category on the Challenge Tour, I will only be able to play events from May. So, I asked a few friends and they all highly recommended the MENA Tour. I asked for an invite and here I am.
“I made a couple of mistakes towards the end of my front nine and I just tried to be aggressive after that. I drove the green on the par-4 10th, and nearly drove the green on the par-4 11th. Those two birdies were a good start to the back nine and I just continued from there.”
Kramer, on the other hand, is just happy to be back on the golf course after surviving a health scare last year that restricted his schedule to just four tournaments on the EuroPro Tour.
“I had played a few events at the start of 2019, but I wasn’t feeling very good. I went to the doctor and they found out I had arrhythmia of heart. It was very scary when we found out because this is no age to get a heart condition. However, after three months of complete rest, I am much better,” said the German who was part of the national team alongside two-time major champion Martin Kaymer.
“It was an amazing round for me. I was seven-under par through the first 10 holes with an eagle on the third and par-4 10th holes. I played the last eight in one-over, but I am so happy with this round. Especially with what happened last year, and also the way I played last week in Oman where I shot an 11-over par round and was hitting the ball over the place.”
The consistent Hague was relishing a fast start, having opened with a 72 in finishing second at NEWGIZA Open and a 69 in tied 10th place at Ghala Open last week.
“I drove it really well all day and kept it in play even though I did not start that well. Made two three-putts from the fringe and was one-over par after eight. I just told myself to remain patient and the birdies would come, and that’s exactly what happened,” said Hague.
“The eagle on 17th was nice towards the end of the round. I hit it into the right bunker and had 142 yards from there. Hit a good shot and it took a couple of bounces and went in.”
Saudi Arabia’s Bahrain-based Saud Al Sharif, a member of Royal Golf Club, was the leading amateur at one-under par 71.
Full scoring HERE