Paul Dunne is best of the Irish challengers after day one at Walton Heath as he bids to defend his British Masters title this week at Walton Heath. Paul Dunne / Image from Getty Images Dunne, who is coming off a poor run of form is looking to rediscover some early season form and there’s no better incentive than trying to defend a title! After day one Dunne is sitting in T21 place on two under par, just three shots off the pace set by home heroes Tommy Fleetwood , Eddie Pepperell and Matt Wallace. While Ireland’s other representatives Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry are one over and three over respectively. Ryder Cup star and reigning Race to Dubai Champion Tommy Fleetwood carried his imperious recent form into the event, carding a five under par opening round 67 to share the overnight lead and it was an eventful start to the historic event – hosted this week by World Number Two Justin Rose at Walton Heath – as Fleetwood lived up to the billing as one of the headline acts, despite finding himself in a bizarre situation on the 17th as his ball ended up in the cupholder of an on-course buggy. Although Fleetwood – playing alongside Ryder Cup-winning team-mates Francesco Molinari and Thorbjørn Olesen – received a free drop, the 27 year old had to settle for a bogey, but his sixth birdie of the day at the final hole was met with rapturous cheers from the galleries. “It felt really, really tough. But overall I hit a ton of good shots. I putted very well. I holed out well,” he said. “The pace of the greens is not easy. You can get a lot of putts where it’s very difficult to get the pace, and you can end up with a lot of three-, four-, five-footers, so I did that well, and it is nice to finish off the round with a birdie. Always makes it feel better.” “It’s the first time a few of the (Ryder Cup) team have been back, and three of us played together, so it was nice to have a warm reception, especially on to the greens and on to the first tee and coming down the last, just for the team really.” Pepperell, meanwhile, carded an incredible hole-in-one on the par three ninth as his tee shot landed directly in the cup, bounced back out and then spun back into the hole. He followed that with a birdie and an eagle on his way to a share of the lead and commented; “It (the hole in one) was a nice shot. It was funny, I missed the putt on the hole before and felt, there’s a tough par-3 coming up and then I go and make a hole-in-one. Funny game. It was obviously bizarre. From where I was standing it looked like it pitched in the hole, jumped up, looked like it was going long because of the height it came out, and then from there just went in. Yeah, very nice.” Wallace’s 67 came courtesy of an eagle, six birdies and three bogeys as the three Englishmen sat one shot clear of the chasing pack which included Frenchman Alexander Levy – who was yet to finish his round as darkness fell and play was suspended overnight. Tournament host Rose lies seven shots back after struggling with illness over the past four days. The Olympic champion opened with a two over par round of 74 which included a run of four consecutive bogeys from his ninth hole, immediately followed by three successive birdies.
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