Red-hot McGrane calls the shots in Royal Palace

There was not even the proverbial man and his dog on hand to witness Damien McGrane move to a two-stroke lead with a 65 on the opening day of the Hassan II Trophy in Agadir.

For a starter, dogs are strictly forbidden on the King of Morocco’s privately owned Gulf du Palais Royal course in Agadir while it is near impossible for the average Moroccan to gain entry into the Royal Palace enclosure.

McGrane dropped a stroke at the fourth but stormed home in the windy conditions to birdie four of closing five holes.

And McGrane recorded just 22 putts again using the Scotty Cameron ‘Detour’ putter and the same putter that earned him his nine stroke success in the 2008 Volvo China Open.

Waterville’s Mark Murphy celebrated his 34th birthday and delighted in birding two of his three closing holes in near darkness for a level par 72.

Murphy earned a place in the Moroccan field and also a start in June’s Irish Open at Royal Portrush in capturing last May the Ireland version of the Golf Channel’s ‘A Big Break’.

Paul McGinley returned to competition for a first time in a month since 14th in India but among many taken prisoner at the fourth hole.

The 427-metre hole runs along the Atlantic Ocean shoreline and McGinley, along with former Irish Open winner Richard Finch, was among five players to record triple bogeys.

South African Branden Grace’s progress was hampered when he lost his ball in a bunker.

Grace found sand from his tee shot on the par-three 16th. But, the ball could not be found and was called lost after five minutes of frantic raking.

Grace, 23, was forced to return to the tee to take a penalty shot.

* Tiger Woods and Justin Rose tucked themselves in just three strokes off the lead when the Arnold Palmer Invitational began at Bay Hill.

American Jason Dufner and Korean Charlie Wi were the pace-setters with six-under-par rounds of 66.

With his only dropped shot coming as a result of three-putting the short 17th, Woods, recovering from an injured ankle, will draw a lot of confidence from a round that was four strokes better than that of Phil Mickelson.

* The Irish quartet continues to lead the way going into today’s third round of the European Nations Cup while Mourne’s Reeve Whitson remains the top golfer in Spain.

He followed up Tuesday’s 68 with a 74 yesterday, keeping him first in the individual standings, one shot clear of Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy, who is tied for second.

McElroy hit 72 in his second round while Muskerry’s three-time Munster Strokeplay champion Niall Gorey carded a 76 as Ireland extended their advantage over the other 16 countries taking part.

For the second round running, Alan Dunbar’s was the score to be dropped from the combined Irish total.

That 36-hole aggregate of 434 is seven better than Italy and nine clear of France with two days left.

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