PORTSTEWART, United Kingdom (AFP) – Olympic champion Justin Rose fired an impressive five-under-par 67 to sit two strokes behind early clubhouse leaders Oliver Fisher and Matthew Southgate at the Irish Open on Thursday (July 6).
The world number 13 capped his round with a fifth-hole eagle in a bogey-free display in relatively benign conditions on the opening day at Portstewart.
Rose has not contested an Irish Open in seven years, and along with holing the 25-footer on the fifth green, he recorded birdies at the fourth, 10th and 11th holes.
“God knows how I was bogey-free given some of the places that I hit it today so delighted with that start,” said Rose, who is yet to win a professional title since his Olympic triumph in Rio de Janeiro last summer.
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“I think it was more a good score than good golf. I didn’t drive the ball particularly well.
“Early on in my round, I was losing shots to the right and kind of figured it out a little bit. You know, then I think the key was hitting some good tee shots on the early par fives, birdie, eagle.
“To get three-under par through five holes, having played most of the holes quite poorly, was kind of a nice momentum booster.”
Southgate, 28, was out in the very first group and did not drop a shot in his seven-under-par 65, before being joined by Fisher, who capped his round with an eagle and five straight birdies from his fourth hole.
Two players – Scotland’s David Drysdale and former winner Jamie Donaldson – were in the clubhouse on six under.
Southgate’s effort is just a stroke shy of his European Tour low, as the Essex golfer looks not only to secure a first Tour victory but also retain full membership after finally securing his main tour card for last season following a scare with testicular cancer in 2015.
“We walked the course yesterday, and I think when you walk a course, you just sort of see where you want to hit it rather than any of the troubles,” he said.
“So, I think it maybe acted as a positive for us. I love the golf course and obviously that showed in the score today.
“Also, it’s been a long time since I’ve gone bogey-free, and that was in my mind because I knew I was swinging it well enough to go bogey-free.”
Like his fellow Englishmen Southgate and Rose, Fisher took full advantage of the excellent scoring conditions.
“I would have taken that score going out this morning and just a shame to bogey the last,” said Fisher.
“I was fortunate enough to have a good little spell in my round where I made a few birdies and I hit some good wedge shots.”