With Irish eyes firmly fixed on tournament favourite, Paul Dunne, it was Michael Hoey who snuck in under the radar to head the emerald challenge after day one of the Trophée Hassan II at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
Michael Hoey / Image from Getty Images
The Belfast professional, who won this very event in 2012, had his wife to thank for jetting halfway across to world to recover a back-up set of sticks after his own clubs were lost in transit en route to Morocco.
It was a favour worthy of repaying and Hoey has so far obliged, firing a three-under-par 69 to open his account and sit just two shots behind joint leaders, Bradley Dredge and Alvaro Quiros.
The 39-year-old has made just one cut so far this year on the Challenge Tour in Kenya but his fine start has him well on the way to doubling that tally with dreams of greater achievements not beyond the realms of possibility after returning four birdies and just the one dropped shot in a wonderful opening salvo.
For favourite Dunne, he signed for a mixed bag that culminated in 73 wallops and a one-over-par total as he looks to avenge his play-off defeat to Edoardo Molinari in this event last season.
He may be tied for 52ndafter day one but as part of a stacked leaderboard on the tight Moroccan layout, Dunne sits just six shots behind the lead and knows he’s more than capable of mounting a timely charge.
For Gavin Moynihan, however, his woes continue after he fell to a five-over-par opening round of 77 that included seven bogeys.
It’s Welshman Dredge alongside Spain’s Quiros who share the first round lead after carding five-under-par first rounds of 67 at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.
Dredge began the day with birdies on the first and second holes before a bogey on the fourth hole. The two-time European Tour winner recovered immediately with his third birdie of the day, and carded two more before making the turn four under par.
The 44-year-old then birdied the 11thand 12thholes, but bogeyed the 16thto settle for a score of 67.
Quiros started his round with four birdies in his first ten holes. He then dropped a shot on the par three 14thhole, but finished his round with consecutive birdies to join Dredge in a share of first place.
Lorenzo Gagli, winner of the Barclays Kenya Open on the European Challenge Tour just last month, is one of four golfers in a share of third place after a first round of 68.
Oliver Fisher, Joakim Lagergren and Erik van Rooyen join Gagli on four under par.
Austin Connelly, Hoey, Benjamin Rusch, Lee Slattery and Ashun Wu are two strokes behind the leaders after their first rounds of 69.