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Irish challenge for Race to Dubai left on starting line

The 2011 Race to Dubai opened up at 6.20 a.m local time at the Alfred Dunhill Championship in Leopard Creek yesterday, but by nightfall the Irish challenge was left in the shadows cast by a host of fast starters.

Hardened pro Damien McGrane ground his way to a steady level par 72 opening bid, leaving him six shots adrift of 25 year old South African Michael Anthony who shot 66.

Anthony led by one from a group of four on 67 which included Robert Rock, still seeking his first Tour win, and ever to be remembered in Ireland as the man who lost ‘that' play-off at Baltray in the 2009 Irish Open to Shane Lowry.

Rock was joined on 67 by Dawie Van der Walt (South Africa), Norway's Marius Thorp, and Sebastian Buhl of Germany.

Thoughts of victory were far from the mind of Michael Hoey, Gary Murphy and Jonathan Caldwell.

Hoey and Murphy — the latter lost his card this year — were among 23 players tied for 73rd after each player carded a 74, while Caldwell was way down the field on 79.

Caldwell, a Walker Cup team mate of Rory McIlroy's in 2007, turned pro in 2008 but has yet to make a breakthrough.

He was holding his round relatively steady at two over par with five holes to go when disaster struck.

A treble-bogey seven on the par-four 14th was followed by another seven on the par-five 15th, but Caldwell did well to restrict the damage after those hammer blows by making par on each of his final three holes.

Defending champion Pablo Martin of Spain returned a 69.

Belfast Telegraph

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