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Moriarty on form as Clarke hits birdie blitz

Colm Moriarty was the top Irish performer in yesterday's first round of the Joburg Open, with an impressive four-under par 67 on the East Course, recognised as the tougher of the two tracks at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.

Though Moriarty was tied 27th on the tournament leaderboard, only five others shot better scores on the East Course. They included Martin Maritz, who picked up nine birdies on his way to a sensational 62 which left him in a tie for the lead with fellow South African Tyrone Mordt on nine-under.

Gareth Maybin posted 69 on the East Course for a share of 56th on two-under, while Darren Clarke staged a fightback with a hat-trick of birdies on the final three holes of his first round 70.

Struggling to make any headway on the greens on the East Course, Clarke was wallowing on two-over par when the complexion of his opening day was changed by a deft chip-in for birdie from the fringe at the par four 16th.

Then he rolled hole an eight foot putt for another birdie at 17 and fired a superlative shot out of a fairway bunker to inside three feet as he picked up another shot at the closing hole.

Niall Kearney did well to keep his composure after a triple-bogey seven at 18, his ninth hole, in the first round of the Gujarat Kensville Challenge, the first European Challenge Tour event to be played in India.

Kearney went on to play the front nine at Kensville in one-under, eventually signing for a 73 which left him tied for 23rd on one-over, six off the pace set by Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh with a 67.

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