Jonathan Caldwell posted a hard-fought two-over 73 to finish best of the Irish on a typically demanding opening day at the Andalucia Masters at Valderrama.
The Clandeboye professional squeezed two birdies out of his round along with four bogeys to be just outside the top-20 and just four shots off the pace heading into Friday’s second round.
With three Irish raiders making the trip, Ardglass professional Cormac Sharvin is two shots further back after posting two birdies of his own in a 75 to reach the clubhouse in plus-four.
Gavin Moynihan had a quintuple bogey 9 at the par-4 fifth largely to thank for his opening round of eight-over par but remained in high spirits despite the rigorous nature of the day one test.
Same here ??
100% agree ?? https://t.co/Q5y4FBLR2Z
— Gavin Moynihan (@GavinMoynihan) September 3, 2020
Real Club Valderrama maintained its reputation as one of the toughest stops on the European Tour as just five players broke par during the first round.
Four competitors share the lead on two under par as the field battled windy conditions in Sotogrande at the notoriously tricky 1997 Ryder Cup venue.
Scotsman Connor Syme continued the strong form he showed over the UK Swing and was the first player to post a score of 69 after finishing his round with three birdies in a row from the 16th hole. He was joined on that number by Spaniard Jorge Campillo, Guido Migliozzi of Italy and American John Catlin.
“I played very good on the front nine, and the back nine I kept it steady there,” said Campillo. “Just a shame about the bogey on 17 but overall it was a good round.
“I put the ball in play off the tee quite well and I hit good iron shots, my short game wasn’t as good as it has been in the last few months and my putting was good too. Everything was good besides the short game – I had a couple of up-and-downs where I would normally hit it close and I didn’t but overall it was good.
“I am normally a patient man, especially on this golf course – you have to be – and par is a good score on this golf course so it’s easier for me to be patient on these kinds of courses.”
Spain’s Pep Angles sits one stroke back on one under par while six golfers share sixth place after carding level par rounds of 71, including last week’s ISPS Handa UK Championship winner Rasmus Højgaard and his Danish compatriot Søren Kjeldsen, who won the 2008 Volvo Masters on this golf course.
Full scoring HERE