Four birdies in his last five holes gave 40-year-old Irishman Damien McGrane an early three-stroke lead at the Hassan Trophy in Morocco today.
McGrane, whose only European Tour victory came by nine shots in the 2008 China Open, had a seven-under par 65 and found himself clear when England’s Graeme Storm made a mess of his finish.
Also seven under with two to play, the former British amateur champion saw a chip come back to his feet on the short eighth – his 17th – and after double-bogeying there he dropped another on the last.
That dropped Storm alongside Scot Richie Ramsay, himself a former United States amateur champion, on 68, while out on the Royal Palace course in Agadir Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, South African Hennie Otto and Spaniard Alejandro Canizares also stood four under.
Brothers Francesco and Edoardo Molinari, the only two players in the field currently qualified for The Masters in a fortnight, were on three under coming to the end of their opening rounds, while their fellow Italian Matteo Manassero and England’s Robert Rock, both of whom still have a chance of making it to Augusta, were among the later starters.
McGrane began with an eagle on the long 10th, then four birdies with three bogeys before making his late charge.
“I’m delighted with it,” he said. “I got off to a fast start and I made my fair share of putts.
“The course is generous – if you play well you have plenty of opportunities.”
There is plenty of trouble to be found as well, though. Former Open champion John Daly ran up a quadruple bogey nine at the 529-yard first and, having been three under after eight holes, he crashed all the way to six over with three to play.