Paul McGinley and Darren Clarke, two of Europe’s three vice-captains for the Ryder Cup, turned their attentions back to playing in Killarney today – with great results.
Without a top 20 finish since he returned in March from yet more knee surgery, 43-year-old McGinley led the 3 Irish Open after going to the turn in a four under 31.
Clarke, meanwhile, was only one behind and alongside 21-year-old fellow Ulsterman Rory McIlroy, already looking forward to a cup debut at Celtic Manor in October.
Not going so well, though, was England’s Justin Rose in only his third appearance in Europe this year.
Twice a winner in America since the start of June, Rose has still to force his way into an automatic qualifying spot on the cup table and his cause was not helped when a double bogey six at the 410-yard eighth sent him down to one over.
Clarke still has hopes of making the team himself and forcing captain Colin Montgomerie into finding a replacement assistant and he had the boost on Tuesday night of an invitation to the US PGA Championship in two weeks’ time.
Victory on Sunday would also put him into next week’s Bridgestone world championship in Akron.
With talk of a possible 59 – nobody has ever done it on the European Tour - 2000 champion Patrik Sjoland was the fastest off the blocks in the early stages.
The Swede eagled the seventh and had three birdies for an outward five under 30, but then double-bogeyed the short 10th.
McGinley also eagled the 513-yard seventh and was already five under at that point, but he dropped his first shot on the 393-yard ninth.
McIlroy, back in action two weeks after finishing third in The Open at St Andrews, birdied the third, fourth, sixth and seventh, bogeyed the next two, but hit his tee shot to nine feet on the dangerous 10th and made the putt.