Shane Lowry finishes two shots off the lead on day one at the Irish Open

Former champion Ross Fisher and two-time major winner Martin Kaymer defied tough conditions to set the clubhouse target in the first round of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open on Thursday.

Despite playing in the heaviest of the rain showers which lashed the K Club, Fisher carded fired seven birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey to card a three-under-par 69, a score matched by Ryder Cup hero Kaymer thanks a superb finish.

After starting from the 10th and failing to birdie any of the three par fives on the back nine, Kaymer was one over par with seven holes remaining before the former world number one followed a birdie on the third with an eagle on the fourth and another birdie on the ninth.

Home favourite Shane Lowry, who won the title in 2009 while still an amateur, carded five birdies and four bogeys to finish two off the pace on one under, with former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley another shot back.

Fisher, whose last win came in the Tshwane Open in 2014, said: "I'm delighted. I played some really good golf apart from finding the water on the 16th for my double bogey, but I bounced back nicely and to shoot three under in the conditions we had this morning, I'm really, really pleased.

"I always enjoy coming here and although it's a different course from where I won, I was excited to come back because I'd played the other course and after seeing the Ryder Cup in 2006 I was looking forward to playing."

Tournament host Rory McIlroy was among the later starters as he looked to end a streak of three straight missed cuts in his home event, the world number three also seeking a first win of the season after six top-10 finishes.

Players and caddies were wearing black ribbons as a mark of respect to former Ryder Cup star Christy O'Connor Snr, who died last week at the age of 91.

Kaymer, who has slipped to 64th in the world rankings after two years without a win, was delighted with his score of 69 and revealed he had spotted a flaw in his swing on television during last week's Players Championship, an event he led from start to finish in 2014.

"It was very difficult to hit the fairways because you had so much water on the clubface," the 31-year-old said. "Overall, shooting three under par is a great round.

"I played really good golf today. I gave myself a lot of chances and missed three or four putts within six, seven feet and still shot three under par, which obviously says a lot about the ball-striking.

"I was very happy the way I hit my drives today. They were long and straight, and that's always a positive.

"In Sawgrass last week I found something on Sunday because my clubface was too open on my backswing. It's a very little change but sometimes you're not aware of that, and I saw it on TV. I just fixed it on Sunday and it felt good."

Lowry finished 16th at Sawgrass after going into the weekend in second place behind eventual winner Jason Day, but was keen to take the positives from his performance.

"I didn't have the best of weekends, but if you take away my first four holes on Saturday it wouldn't have been a bad weekend," Lowry said. "That's the way I kind of have to look at it. You have to look at it as the glass half-full.

"I felt good. I hit the ball really well today, a lot of good iron shots, especially on my back nine. I feel like I probably should be at least two or three better, but they don't give out trophies on Thursday so I'm in the tournament and looking forward to the next few days."

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