Michael Hoey takes route 66 in Cologne

The Northern Irishman is two shots off the lead at the BMW German Open

Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey has shot a six under par, 66, in the opening round of the BMW International Open in Cologne. He is two strokes behind the joint leaders, England's Danny Willett and Spain's Rafa Cabrera Bello

Ireland's Shane Lowry (67) is on five under while countrymen Kevin Phelan (68) and Damien McGrane (69) are one and two shots respectively further back.

Hoey was blemish free in his round, recording six birdies on the first, third, fifth, 10th, 13th and 15th holes. Lowry’s golf was a tad less prosaic as he threw in a couple of bogeys but an eagle on the 13th and five birdies underline the quality of his golf.

Phelan, in his first season as a professional on the European Tour, signed for a 68 that contained four birdies and 14 pars, while Damien McGrane was a stroke further back after a round of 69. Gareth Maybin was the only other Irish player to break par (71).

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Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley managed a regulation 72 but the fact that he is tied 85th underlines the fact that the halfway cut is likely to be two or three under. Peter Lawrie (73), David Higgins (75) and Simon Thornton (76) will need to go low in their second round.

US Open champion Martin Kaymer’s return to action following the second major victory of his career gave his home crowd little to really cheer on the first day of the .

The in-form 29-year-old, who before victory at Pinehurst two weeks ago won The Players Championship in May, carded an opening round of 71.

In perfect scoring conditions at Gut Larchenhof the German disappointingly found himself five shots off the early lead. Starting at the 10th, two birdies in three holes were quickly undone by a double bogey at the short 16th and another dropped shot at the 18th took him to the turn in one over.

Three successive birdies immediately got him back to two under but having hit his second into a greenside bunker at the 577-yard seventh he failed to get out of the trap from an awkward lie and bogeyed to finish one under.

Storm, by contrast, was bogey-free as, after reaching the turn at two under, he carded four birdies in five holes from the 11th to set the clubhouse lead at six under.

He was later joined by Hansen, who also did not drop a shot, Stal who got to seven under through 16 holes — including an eagle at the par-four ninth — before making his only bogey of the morning at the 17th, and Campillo.

Sweden's Robert Karlsson, who started on the back nine, looked set for a low score after reaching the turn on five under but eight pars — interrupted by a dropped shot at the eighth — meant he finished the day two shots off the lead.