Irish Open: Galgorm Castle proves tough nut to crack in opening skirmishes
Burmester, Smith and Rai lead on five under as Lowry fails to fire on homecoming
Pádraig Harrington and caddie Ronan Flood move a large tree branch on the 10th hole during the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Who won? Why, the course, of course. “It’s a beast of a course,” remarked Dean Burmester who, ironically enough, was one of the few who seemed to have its measure as the opening round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Galgorm Castle outside Ballymena in Co Antrim provided a stiff examination as the tree-lined, parkland course, bared its teeth.
On a day when a cool northerly wind gusted upwards of 30 kilometres per hour, and many players wrapped snoods around their necks for added warmth, South African Burmester – who’d practiced in the dark prior to his early morning start – was joined by two Englishmen, Jordan Smith and Aaron Rai, in a share of the first-round lead after well-crafted five-under-par 65s.
When the numbers were crunched in fading light, the course’s toughness was reflected in only 22 players in the field of 120 managing to break par. Play was suspended due to darkness, with three players – through 17 holes – left to complete their rounds.
Shane Lowry, the headline act but clearly out-of-sorts, had a tough old time of it, referring to “a comedy of errors” in an opening round 75 that threw him into a fight to survive the midway cut, while there was comic of a different nature in the sight of Pádraig Harrington and his caddie Ronan Flood literally carrying some deadwood – a rather large branch – from the where his ball had finished up in the trees on the 10th, where he would run up a double-bogey seven en route to an opening 71.
Harrington, playing for the first time in seven months, revealed his spot of tree lifting wasn’t entirely necessary after all. “Actually I was moving the tree for the wrong golf ball. The marshall had pointed a golf ball to me and I was very delicate with everything around it but my golf ball was another two feet further away,” said the Dubliner who was fully entitled under the rules to move the large branch, as it wasn’t attached to anything.
Of the 11 Irish players in the field, amateur James Sugrue was alone in breaking par. His 67 was the standout score of the home contingent, while the most miserable of all was the unfortunate Cormac Sharvin who suffered three double-bogeys on the front nine and failed to find a single birdie in a disappointing 83 that had him propping up the field alongside Italian Andrea Pavan.
Lowry refused to blame any post-US Open fatigue for his flat effort. No excuses, in other words. “I made some really bad decisions and executed my shots really badly. I really struggled on the greens. It’s not easy to shoot a score like that when you really want to do well but it is what it is and I can’t do anything about it. I have to go out there and fight and try and make the cut,” said Lowry, who has spent the past seven months in the United States. He could at least laugh with having to use hand-warmers on his return home.
Springbok Burmester, a serial winner on the Sunshine Tour, reined in his reputation as one of the longest hitters on the circuit to plot his way around the course, seeking to avoid the heavy rough. For the most part, that policy worked a dream, going out in 30 strokes and reaching seven-under-par through 12 holes. His momentum stalled with a run of four successive pars, only for the 31-year-old to finally feel the wrath of the course in suffering a double-bogey six on the 17th.
“I’m still cold, it’s been a long time since I’ve woken up and hit balls in the dark. But the greens were perfect and obviously it worked out for me today. For 16 holes I played flawless golf, pretty much. I didn’t miss a shot. Then unfortunately I fell asleep over a three-footer [on 17],” said Burmester, who last tasted success in the Tshwane Open in 2017.
Smith, who has found life in the bubble hard, rediscovered some zest for the game with a well-constructed round to join Burmester. A winner of the European Open back in 2017, Smith took last week off and didn’t touch a club until a session with his coach on Monday and the result was the only bogey-free round.
Rai, another who has come through the mini-tour and Challenge Tour route to the main circuit, and a winner of the 2018 Hong Kong Open, has made all six cuts in the tournaments he has played following the European Tour’s resumption and continued that decent from.
“Today it was probably the putting that clicked. Whenever I missed the green and needed a few clean-up putts, I made them. If you can keep mistakes off the card and pick up a couple here and there, you won’t be far away,” said Rai.
British and Irish unless stated, par 70, (a) denotes amateur
Round 1 suspended with 3 players left to finish the first round.
65 Dean Burmester (Rsa), Jordan Smith, Aaron Rai
66 Toby Tree
67 Stephen Gallacher, (a) James Sugrue, Oscar Lengden (Swe), John Catlin (USA), Rikard Karlberg (Swe)
68 Lucas Bjerregaard (Den), Justin Harding (Rsa), Niklas Lemke (Swe), Julien Guerrier (Fra), Martin Simonsen (Den), Jazz Janewattananond (Tha), Scott Hend (Aus), Garrick Higgo (Rsa)
69 Marcus Armitage, David Law, Robert Rock, Nacho Elvira (Esp), Scott Jamieson
70 Damien McGrane, Clement Sordet (Fra), Joakim Lagergren (Swe), Daan Huizing (Ned), Graeme Storm, Ben Stow, Maverick Antcliff (Aus), Jake McLeod (Aus), Fabrizio Zanotti (Pry), Wade Ormsby (Aus), Jack Senior, Calum Hill, Wilco Nienaber (Rsa), Oliver Farr, Ewan Ferguson
71 Steven Brown, Richie Ramsay, Joost Luiten (Ned), Damien Perrier (Fra), Adrian Meronk (Pol), George Coetzee (Rsa), Lars Van Meijel (Ned), Julian Suri (USA), Lucas Herbert (Aus), Dale Whitnell, Alejandro Canizares (Esp), Connor Syme, Jonathan Caldwell, Pádraig Harrington
72 Richard Bland, David Howell, Callum Shinkwin, Richard McEvoy, Mikko Korhonen (Fin), Mathieu Fenasse (Fra), James Morrison, Lee Slattery, Joachim B Hansen (Den), Shubhankar Sharma (Ind), Dave Coupland, Sean Crocker (USA)
73 Garrick Porteous, Francesco Laporta (Ita), Jason Scrivener (Aus), Max Schmitt (Ger), Laurie Canter, Darius Van Driel (Ned), Johannes Veerman (USA), Adri Arnaus (Esp), Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel), Matthew Baldwin, Tyler Koivisto (USA), Robin Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), David Drysdale, (a) Tom McKibbon, Jbe Kruger (Rsa), Antoine Rozner (Fra), Ross McGowan
74 Zach Murray (Aus), Joel Stalter (Fra), Haydn Porteous (Rsa), Matthew Southgate, Wil Besseling (Ned), Gavin Moynihan, Liam Johnston, Marc Warren, Sebastian Soderberg (Swe), Romain Wattel (Fra), (a) Mark Power, Bernd Ritthammer (Ger), Masahiro Kawamura (Jpn), Edoardo Molinari (Ita), 75 Marcus Kinhult (Swe), Colm Moriarty, Michael Campbell (Nzl), Steven Tiley, Robin Roussel (Fra), Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne, Gaganjeet Bhullar (Ind), Daniel Young, Aaron Cockerill (Can), Min Woo Lee (Aus)
76 Soren Kjeldsen (Den), Yi-Keun Chang (Kor), David Horsey, Benjamin Poke (Den), Ashun Wu (Chn)
77 Jeff Winther (Den)
78 Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), Ryan Fox (Nzl), Oliver Fisher
79 Ashley Chesters
83 Cormac Sharvin, Andrea Pavan (Ita)