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Michael Hoey the major player as he upstages Ulster's finest

By Karl MacGinty

A Northern Ireland golfer turned on the style in the Dunhill Links Championship yesterday but it wasn't a Major winner.

Belfast man Michael Hoey got off to a stunning start at St Andrews and by the end of play he was sharing the lead after hitting a six-under 66.

Joining him at the top are Louis Oosthuizen and Rafael Cabrera who played at Kingsbarns and Markus Brier who was also in action at St Andrews.

Ulster's three Major winners were also in action but couldn't match Hoey's (pictured) heroics.

At Kingsbarns, Graeme McDowell hit a 67, Rory McIlroy a 70 and Darren Clarke a 73.

Gareth Maybin dropped four late shots at Carnoustie to card a 73 while Paul Cutler hit 71.

McIlroy is second on the European money list, £1.5m behind Luke Donald who had a round of 69.

The Holywood man's 70 left him in touch, despite a triple bogey on the par-three 13th (his fourth).

"I'm glad I had a good partner today," he said referring to his father, Gerry. "He carried me for 11 holes before I eventually removed my head from my ass. Solid day in the end."

Dustin Johnson, the world No 5, proved the star attraction at the glorious Kingsbarns links, where more children sought his autograph than that of Hollywood's own Michael Douglas.

His game could not quite match the hype, as he stumbled to a one-under-par 71 - five off the pace set by Oosthuizen, displaying his best form since winning last year's Open at St Andrews.

But McDowell was inspired in serene conditions, beginning his tilt at the Dunhill title with a 67, and acknowledged that the secret lay in his re-enlistment of one-time coach Clive Tucker.

"At the US PGA things came to a head," he said.

"Myself and my caddie, we had to have a bit of a heart-to-heart as to what we were doing and what we needed to change.

"Clive was the answer: a guy who understands my game very well and the answer for why I played well in 2010.

"At one point in August, I really wasn't looking forward to a busy schedule at the end of the year.

"But I've got more clarity of thought now, which excites me."

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