malton’S Simon Dyson got off to a fine start in defence of his Irish Open title yesterday.
The Yorkshireman, who won last year’s event at Kilarney Golf and Fishing Club, eagled the par five 528-yard second hole at Royal Portrush in County Antrim on his way to a five-under par 67.
Dyson did not drop a shot and collected birdies at the seventh and ninth to go out in 32 and added another two birdies at the 15th and 17th to keep on course to retaining the title – a feat achieved by Colin Montgomerie, Seve Balelsteros, Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam.
Dyson’s fellow Yorkshiremen had differing fortunes.
Danny Denison had five birdies but he double bogeyed the seventh and also bogeyed the last to finish on one under 71.
Richard Finch, the 2008 Irish Open champion, finished on level par 72 after a birdie at the last, which followed another at the third and dropped shots on 10 and 15.
BMW International Open winner Danny Willett slipped back to a one over 73 after a round containing three birdies and four bogeys.
On a day which saw all 27,000 tickets sold for the competition, the first round pace was set by India’s Jeev Milkha Singh after he carded a seven-under-par 65.
“The atmosphere and the feel to the golf course is fantastic,” said the 40-year-old.
“When you have so many people cheering and watching you I think you feel great.”
England’s Mark Foster, part of a group on 66, added: “It was just amazing out there.
“I got a 6am car to the course and, I kid you not, there were people queuing to get in – even though the rain was coming sideways.
“I’ve never seen a buzz in the players’ lounge like there is this week. People are raving about the course and the crowds.”
Rory McIlroy put in what he called “a sloppy finish”, three-putting the 16th and 18th for only a 70.
Darren Clarke felt better about his 71 because he had been two over after eight.