Irish Open in date clash

The date of the 2014 Irish Open has been confirmed but to be staged the same week as the British Amateur Championship at Royal Portrush.

The June 19-22nd 2014 date, at a venue still to be decided, was revealed at a Players Committee meeting held on the eve of the Portugal Masters in Vilamoura.

Ireland’s Simon Thornton is among seven players tied for the lead with six under par 65s on the opening day played in superb conditions on the Oceanico Victoria course.

Also after the controversy surrounding their non-appearance at last week’s Seve Trophy, Europe’s top players will be encouraged to play more in their ‘home’ events.

The absence of Europe’s PGA Tour based stars was the major talking point at the Players meeting.

“There was a lot of talk about trying to get our top players to play more in Europe including playing in their home events,” said committee member Paul McGinley.

“What would the Irish Open be without Rory and the Irish Open has been a success every year because Rory plays, and it was a success every year when Padraig played as the top Irish player.”

McGinley was commenting after posting a level par 71 and before being taken off for a random drugs test as the Tour had been doing all day with a number of competitors.

“Now, wouldn’t that be a good story for you if the Ryder Cup captain failed the drugs test,” joked McGinley.

Thornton, still playing with an injured thumb from last months Italian Open, produced seven birdies in his round including four in succession and a 20-foot gem at the last as he seeks to win for a second time this year after the Newcastle golfer broke through to capture the St. Omer Open in France.

But Peter Lawrie produced one of his poorest rounds all season, a six over par 77 to slump to 123rd in the 126-player field.

And Shane Lowry got his Portugal Masters defence underway with a one under par 70 that included 31 putts.

Michael Hoey posted a 68, Damien McGrane 70, David Higgins 71 and Gareth Maybin a 75.

lMichael McDermott won the Cassidy Golf PGA Irish Region Championship pro-am at Roganstown on Wednesday, and continued the good work yesterday in the first round of the €30,000 103rd real event.

He shot a sizzling 65 course record to push early clubhouse leader Michael McGeady off the top by a stroke, when it looked as if the latter was set for the overnight lead.

“I shot a three-under-par in the pro-am and that was good practice for me before the championship,” said lanky McDermott. The leader explained that he is just getting used to a new set of Ping clubs, and feels the clubs are really suiting him. They have improved his iron play tremendously, he says.

Michael McGeady’s fortunes may not have been great this year on the EuroPro Tour, but yesterday he, too, was in excellent form, shooting a 66.

Former championship winner David Mortimer posted a 69 to take third place overnight. Playing the back nine first, he birdied the par four 15th and short 17th but gave a shot back at long 18.

However, he regained the lost ground with birdie three at the first hole before finishing with eight pars.

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