Niall Kearney put plenty of ‘credit into the bank’ thanks to a monster eagle putt on the opening day of the Hero Open at the Fairmont Resort on the outskirts of St. Andrews.
Kearney drove the green at the short par-4 seventh, the 16h hole of his round, and then brilliantly buried the near 60-foot putt for his ‘2’ in a round of a four-under 68 in bright, warm and calm conditions on the Torrance course.
The Royal Dublin pro was one-over after back-to-back bogeys to end his opening nine before making his move with a hat-trick of birdies from his 10th and then rounding off a superb day’s work with the eagle putt three holes from home.
“It was a lovely eagle on seven or my 16th hole, and I played the back nine which is the front nine on the card a lot better, the front was scrappy”, he said.
“I just didn’t make anything, so it was good to turn it around with three birdies in a row from my 10th coming in.
“The conditions were perfect out there and that’s reflected in the scoring, and with the greens perfect, so there was a score out there.
“Scoring was low last year with 24-under winning, and I played well here last year finishing in a share of eighth.
“Then you don’t know what the weather is going to be like here each day. I’m out late tomorrow and it could be blowing a gale and you need to have credit in the bank”.
This week is Kearney’s 14th event of the season, 10 on the DP World Tour and four on the secondary Challenge Tour, with a best finish of a T15th in May’s Soudal Open on the main tour. However, currently 165th on the Race to Dubai money-list he needs to get a move on if the 34-year-old is to retain full 2023 playing rights.
“It was a tough start to the season but I feel like I am playing well and I have a decent run of tournaments coming up,” Kearney added. “I played last week and I am playing the next three events after this week”.Simon Thornton is the next best of the Irish as the Co. Down player managed five birdies in a three-under 69.
Clandeboye’s Jonathan Caldwell also bagged five birdies in a two-under 70 while one back is Dubliner David Carey, making his DP World Tour debut two weeks after playing all four rounds in the 150th Open Championship at close-by St. Andrews.
Greystones Paul Dunne posted a level par 72 while Ardglass’ Cormac Sharvin struggled to be near the bottom of the board with a 75.
American Sam Crocker leads with an eagle and eight birdies leads the way with a nine-under 63.