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Ballantines Championship: Birdies keeping McGrane flying high

Damien McGrane and Shane Lowry bagged a spectacular haul of 14 birdies in a thrilling head-to-head scrap for the first round lead in the The Ballantines Championship.

Yet, incredibly, the two duelling Irishmen would still wind-up six strokes apart at day's end in Icheon, Seoul!

As Kells man McGrane, 40, skipped into a one stroke tournament lead on six-under, Lowry haemorrhaged half-a-dozen shots on his final six holes.

After signing for a level-par 72, the Clara native ended-up frustrated in a tie for 36th with, among others, World No 1 Lee Westwood and Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin.

Following his impressive final 54 holes at last weekend's Volvo China Open, McGrane's superb 66 on a strategically demanding Blackstone course yesterday made nonsense of odds of 200/1 offered against him at The Ballantines.

McGrane racked-up eight birdies, including a fantastic chip-in from the rough 20 yards to the right of the second.

McGrane said: “I'd good pace on my putts, which is important. I holed everything inside 15 feet, made plenty of birdies so I'm very satisfied with that.”

Belfast’s Michael Hoey dropped shots in the final five holes of his 71 to share 19th place on one-under with Paul McGinley, who birdied two of his final four.

Westwood and playing companions Ian Poulter and Miguel Angel Jimenez were constantly bothered by clicking cameras and cell phone ring tones, the World No 1 dropping his club in fury at the par three seventh when one went off on his downswing.

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