Irish in touch with leader in Portugal

England’s Ross McGowan was the man to catch again when the Estoril Portuguese Open began today as Irish golfers maintained a close chase.

The 26-year-old from Surrey fired a seven-under-par 64, one outside the Oitavos Dunes course record, despite the blustery conditions.

He led by two from Ireland’s Michael Hoey, who still had eight holes of his first round to play, and by three from Yorkshireman Simon Dyson, Ireland’s Paul McGinley and Scot Alastair Forsyth, loser of a play-off in the event last April.

It was not proving a happy return to the Tour for 55-year-old Sam Torrance, however.

Extending his record number of appearances on the circuit to 705, the former Ryder Cup captain, given a sponsor’s invitation two weeks after winning on the Seniors Tour in Barbados, kicked off with a triple bogey eight and with two to play was four-over.

At the Johnnie Walker Championship in Perth two months ago McGowan led by two with five to play, but while he bogeyed the 14th and 16th 18-year-old Lee birdied four of the last six to win by one.

Second place still represented his best finish on Tour, though, and because Lee was unable to accept the prize money he earned more than £145,000 (€158,919).

Torrance had an interesting comment to make yesterday about Colin Montgomerie’s wish to have Jose Maria Olazabal as his vice-captain in next year’s match against the Americans at Celtic Manor.

Olazabal, who was Nick Faldo’s deputy in Louisville last September and is expected to be in charge in Chicago in 2012, is not sure he wants to do the job again.

“You have to understand Ollie has done his stint as vice-captain,” said Torrance, who led Europe to victory at The Belfry in 2002 after assisting Mark James in Boston three years earlier.

“It’s a huge learning experience, but he doesn’t want to be the second-in-command any more and that’s exactly how he should feel.”

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