Tom McKibbin took advantage of the par-fives at PGA Catalunya to lead the Irish charge after the opening day of the Catalunya Championship on the DP World Tour, however all four Irishmen are battling to avoid the cut line rather than looking up the leaderboard.
The Holywood teen played the four longest holes in three-under-par to sit the best of the bunch after a level-par 72 at the Stadium Course, which has him on the cut line, but Jonathan Caldwell, Luke Donnelly and Cormac Sharvin all have work to do if they are to make it in for the weekend.
McKibbin did well to rebound from an early setback, a double-bogey at his fourth hole – the par-four 13th after starting at the 10th – putting him on the back foot early on, but birdies at the par-fives 15th and third moved him back into red figures.
A bogey at the par-three fifth dropped him back to one-over, but once again his scoring touch didn’t fail him at the final par-five of his round, the seventh, to finish the day where he started.
Clandeboye man Caldwell was all set to join him after three birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey had him set for a 72, but a costly bogey on the par-four 18th dropped him back to one-over, one shot outside the early cut line.
On his home course, Donnelly carded just one birdie around three bogeys and a double in a four-over 76, while Sharvin had three birdies but unfortunately it was accompanied by three bogeys, two double-bogeys and a triple in a seven-over 79.
The lead is shared by South Africans Oliver Bekker and Darren Fichardt, who both carded six-under 66s in the early wave of starters in Spain, and they were joined by Denmark’s Jeff Winther at the top by the close of play.
Bekker and Fichardt both had identical rounds consisting of eight birdies and a double-bogey each, while Winther only had seven birdies but turned the double into just a single dropped shot to give the trio a one-shot lead going into round two.
They are closely followed by Germany’s Sebastian Heisele, England’s James Morrison and China’s Haotong Li, who all finished the day with 67s, with local favourite Adri Arnaus leading a group of five players a shot further back after four-under 68s.