King hails his fast start as Hoey aims to press ahead
There's a long held maxim in golf that you can't win a tournament on the opening day, but you can shoot yourself out of contention.
That dictum may never have been more relevant than this week at the Galgorm Resort & Spa Northern Ireland Open, presented by Modest! Golf.
The tournament has embraced a new format and it is forcing players to assess their position less in terms of leading and more in terms of remaining inside the top 24.
At the end of round one, three players - Nick McCarthy, Ricardo Santos and Gary King - led the way on five-under par, but the important score was three-under. It marked that all-important potential cut-off point to reach Shootout Sunday.
Joint leader King said: "I'm very happy to start with a five-under round on a golf course like that, which is playing really tough - certainly this year it's tougher than I've ever seen it in the past few years.
"I'm trying to approach the tournament the same as any other week. I'll treat it as a three-round strokeplay event and then take it from there on Sunday, but the aim is to win the three days and then go again on Sunday."
This year's tournament will see a 36-hole cut following the close of play today to the top 60 players and ties.
That will be followed tomorrow by another cut with the top 24 players making it through to Shootout Sunday, where five rounds of six-hole strokeplay matches will decide the winner.
Ireland's Gary Hurley, who leads the home challenge after a four-under par round of 68, was concentrating more on hitting some good shots than worrying about the new format.
"I haven't read too much into it. I didn't play in Spain when they had something similar," said the 24-year-old from West Waterford.
"I don't really know what the format is to be honest. I'm just focused on making sure I'm in the mix for the top 24 on Saturday. It's anyone's game then."
The Irish players showed up well yesterday with Cormac Sharvin, Damien McGrane and Simon Thornton all well placed after opening 68s, while Michael Hoey, Colm Moriarty and Galgorm Castle amateur Jordan Hood are a shot further back on two-under.
Tournament ambassador Hoey was relatively content to open his campaign with a two-under-par 69 and vowed not to waste energy focusing on the leaderboard.
"I probably should have been up to four- or five-under but still, if that's the worst round I shoot, that's not too bad," said the Ulsterman.
"I still have a lot of chances tomorrow and will have fresh greens to putt on.
"You have to be reasonably aggressive over these opening two rounds to ensure that you have a chance on Saturday so you can't be too careful.
"And you can't spend time watching the scoring because it creates useless storylines in your head. It doesn't work. You just have to take it one shot at a time."
NI Open Standings
Standings after Day One
66: R Santos (Por), G King (Eng), N McCarthy (Eng)
67: D Huizing (Ned), T Linard (Fra), M Schwab (Aut), P Maddy (Eng), G Hurley (Irl), V Riu (Fra), T Murray (Eng), M Nixon (Eng)
68: O Lengden (Swe), J Carlota (Por), M Rohwer (RSA), J Harrison (Eng), D McGrane (Irl), J Girrbach (Sui), S Thornton (Irl), J Lando Casanova (Fra), L Nemecz (Aut), C Sharvin (Nir), M Laskey (Wal), R Kellett (Sco), B Neil (Sco)
69: C Del Moral (Esp), D Law (Sco), J Maw (Eng), C Moriarty (Irl), M Hoey (Nir), N Ravano (Ita), B Rusch (Sui), N Geyger (Chi), G Migliozzi (Ita), E Dubois (Fra), C Mivis (Bel), D Van Driel (Ned), S Brown (Eng), J Kunzenbacher (Ger), M Orrin (Eng), A Maestroni (Ita), C Ford (Eng), A Pavan (Ita), J Hood (am) (Nir)
70: R James (Wal), C Braeunig (Ger), J Van Der Vaart (Ned), R Gonzalez (Arg), W Besseling (Ned), F Bergamaschi (Ita), P Mejow (Ger), J Brun (Fra), G Porteous (Eng), C Griffiths (Eng), N O’Briain (Irl), S Henry (Sco), C Blomstrand (Swe), C Gane (Eng), J Allan (Eng), R Sciot-Siegrist (Fra), M Baldwin (Eng), T Lawrence (RSA), J Doherty (Sco), S Kim (USA), M Ovesen (Den), L Gagli (Ita), K Phelan (Irl), C Fairweather (am) (Nir)
71: A Velasco (Esp), A Zemmer (Ita), M Godoy (Arg), F Daux (Fra), R McNamara (Irl), R Saxton (Ned), R McGee (Irl), A Tadini (Ita), P Howard (Eng), B Eccles (Aus), M Haastrup (Den), S Hutsby (Eng), R Echenique (Arg), J Dantorp (Swe), M Dobias (Sui), M Kramer (Ger), M Cort (Eng), R McCarthy (Aus), D Foos (Ger), A Chesters (Eng), C Koepka (USA), E Cuartero Blanco (Esp)
72: P Eriksson (Swe), G Moynihan (Irl), R Finch (Eng), T Shadbolt (Eng), R Hjelm (Den), C Selfridge (Nir), P Shields (Sco), M Ford (Eng), J Rutherford (Eng), M Lampert (Ger), E Johansen (Nor), E Goya (Arg), J Parry (Eng), M Schneider (Ger), O Farr (Wal), S Einhaus (Ger), C Aronsen (Nor), J Galbraith (am) (Nir)
73: C Sordet (Fra), I Cantero Gutierrez (Esp), O Lindell (Fin), M Cabrera-Bello (Esp), A Wennstam (Swe), R Enoch (Wal), R Caron (Ned), D McElroy (Nir, below), J Hansen (Den), B Virto (Esp), M Simonsen (Den), H Joannes (Bel), S Grant (Irl), P Whiteford (Sco), M Trappel (Aut), J Winther (Den), L Acikalin (am) (Tur)
74: M Fenasse (Fra), D Suchan (Cze), T Santos Silva (Por), D Gaunt (Aus), R Davies (Wal), M Delpodio (Ita) , B McCarroll (Irl)
75: D Loftus (Irl), M Ortolani (Ita), C Bezuidenhout (RSA), B Poke (Den), A Bernadet (Fra), K Eriksson (Swe), J Senior (Eng), A Dalgliesh (Eng), N Kearney (Irl)
76: S Jeppesen (Swe), E España (Fra), P Hendriksen (Eng)
77: J Cafourek (Cze), J McLeary (Sco), B Robinson (Eng), S Robins (Eng), T O’Driscoll (Irl), O Wilson (Eng), T Mulligan (am) (Irl)
78: L Robinson (Eng), R Whitson (Nir), C Bouniol (Fra)
79: A Schwartz (Fra), L Cianchetti (Ita)
83: K Le Blanc (Irl)