Paul Dunne continued his fine form of late to fire an opening round of 66 in windy conditions, good enough for a share of the lead after the first round of the Spanish Open in Madrid.
Coming in hot off the back of two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, Dunne picked up a shot at the first before dropping his only stroke of the day immediately at the second. He then took advantage of the par-5 fifth with another birdie four to be out in an unassuming 35 wallops.
However, the putter soon caught fire on the back nine as the Greystones golfer put the after-burners on. Birdies at 11, 13 and 16 were punctuated by a wonderful eagle three from six feet at the par-5 18th as Dunne took route 66 to the clubhouse and a commanding position after the opening duel in the Spanish capital.
“I’m pretty pleased,” he acknowledged after his round. “I find the greens quite tricky to read out there, especially on the front nine, so it was nice to get a couple of putts go in on the back nine and give myself a climb up the leaderboard.
“Our front nine was quite windy and that just makes it trickier to putt than anything else. This golf course with the rough the way it is – kind of patchy – you can get away with some bad shots but it’s just hard to make the five, six-footers for par if you get out of position.
“Then on the back nine the wind died a little bit but the rain came in so it was a tale of two halves. I’d rather the little bit of rain and calm conditions because it makes the greens a little more puttable for me.”
He will begin his second round at 7.55am tomorrow as he looks to continue Ireland’s strong tradition at the Open de Espana, following previous wins from Eddie Polland, Eamonn Darcy, Pádraig Harrington and Peter Lawrie.
It was a different story for his budding compatriot, Gavin Moynihan, who was going along like a house on fire before disaster struck on his inward half.
Gavin may have kept a 10 off his card, contrary to reports on the European Tour website, but a costly 9 at the par-5 5th derailed an otherwise great day in Madrid.
Having started from the back nine, the Dubliner was cruising along at five-under-par through 13 holes as he looked to render his teething Tour woes a thing of the past.
However disaster struck on the next just as it looked like Moynihan would have a chance to move to six-under-par.
“Made a 9 on a par 5 today”, he tweeted. “Probably one of the best up and downs of my life for that 9 too.”
Clearly still in good spirits despite the disappointed, Moynihan dropped one more shot on the par-4 6th to eventually sign for an even par total, by all accounts an unfair reflection of his overall play today.
Having missed every cut since making his debut as a fully-fledged member of the European Tour, Moynihan, currently in a share of 87th spot, will need a good one tomorrow to right that wrong ahead of the weekend.
Yet having clearly found something in his game after a couple of weeks grinding on the practice ground, he’ll be hoping to continue the good work he started over 13 holes today going into tomorrow’s crucial second round.
Atop the leaderboard alongside Dunne, Scotland’s Marc Warren birdied five of his last seven holes to sign for a 66 as heavy rain moved in during the late afternoon at Centro Nacional de Golf.
World Number Four Jon Rahm and amateur Victor Pastor delighted the home crowds at five under alongside English trio Aaron Rai, Callum Shinkwin and Jonathan Thomson, Swedish pair Alexander Björk and Henric Sturehed, Frenchman Julien Guerrier, Australian Jason Norris, Austrian Matthias Schwab and South African Erik van Rooyen.
Defending champion Andrew Johnston was then in the group at four under, with 40 players within three shots of the lead.