Stephanie Meadow shot a superb 68 that put her in a tie for second place among the early finishers in the opening round of the LPGA Mediheal Championship at the Saticoy club in Somis, California.
The Northern Ireland golfer racked up five birdies and just a single bogey to leave her just a shot behind Alison Lee. Meadow turned in one under but picked up shots at the 12th, 14th and 15th, the only minor disappointment that she didn’t avail of a chance at the par-five 18th.
Meanwhile, Niall Kearney and Jonathan Caldwell led the Irish challenge on the opening day of the Spanish Open at the Club de Campo villa de Madrid, both signing for a two-under-par 69 but some six shots behind first round leaders Ashun Wu, Darius van Driel and Kiradech Aphibarnrat. They were one shot clear of a trio of players including local favourite and world number six Jon Rahm (64).
The 34-year-old Dubliner Kearney recovered from a bogey at the first with three birdies, at the fourth, seventh and 10th to lie in a tie for 31st place and giving him a decent shot at making the weekend for a third tournament in succession. He is 171st on the DP World Tour rankings, and the best placed of the Irish contingent trying to earn a card for next season.
Caldwell (38), whose best performance recently was tied 39th at the Cazoo Open de France, also turned in one under, albeit with a more colourful opening nine holes with three birdies and two bogeys. A birdie on the 18th might have made dinner taste a little better.
Paul Dunne and Gavin Moynihan, both of whom started on the 10th, shot level-par 71s, which leaves them in a tie for 69th place and in need of a round in red figures on Friday to try and ensure playing rights at the weekend.
Dunne, who has made one cut in his last five tournaments, was one under through 10 holes but a double bogey at the second, his 11th, stalled his momentum. He did show character, though, in responding with a couple of birdies and just a single bogey in the last seven holes.
Coincidentally, the par-four second, his 11th, also took a chunk out of Moynihan’s card as he dropped a couple of shots there. Cormac Sharvin’s (74) disappointing season continues while David Carey ran up five bogeys and a double-bogey in a 76.
Rahm, playing in front of the biggest galleries, said: “I told Adam [caddie] walking down our third hole on 12, it is not that my heartbeat was faster, but it was more intense on the first few shots and the first few putts with the home crowd.
“I want to do well, and they want me to play well. With that said it always helps to start with a birdie, all those things help settle things down, and then a nice up-and-down on the second hole got me going, so it is not more nerve-racking but a little more intense.
“I am glad I could follow back up my last competitive round with another really good round and keep the good play going. It is important to start strong, the course is only going to get harder, so to come out in the morning and take advantage of the easier conditions was great.”
On the PGA Tour, Waterford golfer Séamus Power opened with a two-under 69 at the Shriners Children’s Open in Las Vegas, where American Tom Hoge took the early clubhouse lead after carding an eight-under 63 to lead by one from South Korea’s Si Woo Kim, who in turn was a shot clear of compatriot Tom Kim.