Ryan Fox opened with a round of 5-under par at Ballyliffin Golf Club and will take a one-shot lead into day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The 31-year old New Zealand native was nearly flawless, finishing with just a single bogey against six birdies, highlighted by a two over his final four holes to sign for the day’s low round of 67.
“I drove it nice. I think I probably only hit five or six fairways but missed them in the right places and hit a lot of good drives that just ran through fairways and gave myself a lot of chances,” said Fox, who is not yet qualified for the Open Championship in two weeks.
“I’d love to be in the Open and Carnoustie is one of the best golf courses in the world I think and I’d love the chance to play there in an Open.
“As good a start as I can have, really, and hopefully three more rounds and if I can sneak in that top five like last year and get an Open spot, that would be great.”
Hometown hero Padraig Harrington was a shot off the lead alongside four Englishmen in Ashley Chesters, Robert Rock, Lee Westwood and Danny Willett, as well as a pair of Frenchmen in Matthieu Pavon and Adrien Saddier.
Another nine players were bunched at 3-under par, one clear of headliner and tournament host Rory McIlroy, who leads a logjam of 12 players at 2 under par.
Defending champion Jon Rahm shot 74 and sits T92 at 2-over par.
IRISH OPEN: TOP 10
1. Ryan Fox -5
2. Adrien Saddier -4
2. Ashley Chesters -4
2. Robert Rock -4
2. Padraig Harrington -4
2. Matthieu Pavon -4
2. Lee Westwood -4
2. Danny Willett -4
9. Scott Jamieson -3
9. Yusaku Miyazato -3
9. Adrian Otaegui -3
9. Dylan Frittelli -3
9. Jinho Choi -3
9. Sam Horsfield -3
9. Joakim Lagergren -3
9. Nacho Elvira -3
9. Alexander Bjork -3
STATS: RYAN FOX IN THE LEAD
Driving: 321.5 yards
Fairways: 5/14, 33.3%
Greens: 12/18, 66.7%
Par-3 Scoring: -1 (1 Birdie, 2 Pars)
Par-4 Scoring: -2 (3 Birdies, 8 Pars, 1 Bogey)
Par-5 Scoring: -2 (2 Birdies, 1 Par)
Aggregate Scoring: -5 (6 Birdies, 11 Pars, 1 Bogey )
VIDEO: SHOT OF THE DAY
Alexander Levy found himself with a difficult lie during round one of the Irish Open, but the Frenchman made a terrific shot out of the bunker on No. 13 to save par.
QUOTABLE: RYAN FOX
“I’d love to be in the Open and Carnoustie is one of the best golf courses in the world I think and I’d love the chance to play there in an Open.”
– Fox, after round one of the 2018 Irish Open