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Irish Open: Hoey determined to regain his place among big hitters

 

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Hats off: Michael Hoey is savouring the Irish Open. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye

Hats off: Michael Hoey is savouring the Irish Open. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye

Hats off: Michael Hoey is savouring the Irish Open. Photo: Matt Mackey/Presseye

Michael Hoey says that getting back to playing on the European Tour at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open this week has been a real buzz for him.

Hoey, who has this year mostly been playing on the Challenge Tour, the level below the European Tour, got an invite to the event only last week.

The 38-year-old responded to that by shooting an opening round of 68, four-under par, and says that being back on Europe's premier tour is where he wants to be.

"It's phenomenal," the Ulsterman said. "It's like an Open to be honest, you get all that excitement. I holed a long putt earlier and the crowd's response was excellent."

The five-time European Tour winner put his good round, which has him four shots off overnight leaders Daniel Im and Benjamin Hebert, down to his consistent driving.

"I've taken some of my good form from the Challenge Tour into here," Hoey said. "I'm driving it well so I'm giving myself lots of chances.

"I'm hitting a lot of fairways. If you're in the rough here you never know how it's going to fly so you've got to hit your fairways to give yourself plenty of chances.

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"I felt like (my score) could have been six (under), but still, four under is a pretty good start."

Hoey also believes that there are plenty of low scores to be had around the Strand course this week, and is targeting one himself to put himself right into contention for victory.

"If you're on the fairways you'll be hitting lots of short irons, and the greens are soft so you could go six or seven under," he said.

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 16th green during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 16th green during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

Republic of Ireland's Shane Lowry on the 8th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

Republic of Ireland's Shane Lowry on the 8th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

PA

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell on the 8th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell on the 8th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

PA

Spain's Jon Rahm in action in the rough during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

Spain's Jon Rahm in action in the rough during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

PA

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke in action on the ninth fairway during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke in action on the ninth fairway during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

PA

Spain's Jon Rahm on the 16th tee during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Spain's Jon Rahm on the 16th tee during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

A policeman watches Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 10th fairway during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

A policeman watches Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 10th fairway during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks down the 16th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks down the 16th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

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Spain's John Rahm (left) and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 18th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club.  Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Spain's John Rahm (left) and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 18th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 15th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 15th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

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Erica Stoll, wife of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Erica Stoll, wife of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

Erica Stoll, wife of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

Erica Stoll, wife of Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use.

PA

Daniel Im of the United States tees off on the 1st hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Daniel Im of the United States tees off on the 1st hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to a putt on the 14th green during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland reacts to a putt on the 14th green during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan hits his second shot on the 14th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan hits his second shot on the 14th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

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Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his third shot on the 16th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland hits his third shot on the 16th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Police boats providing extra security around the course during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Police boats providing extra security around the course during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

Paul Dunne of Ireland tees off on the 17th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Paul Dunne of Ireland tees off on the 17th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 13th green during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 13th green during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday July 7, 2017. See PA story GOLF Irish. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire.

PA

Jon Rahm of Spain looks down the 13th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Jon Rahm of Spain looks down the 13th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan prepares to hit his second shot on the 11th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan prepares to hit his second shot on the 11th hole during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland looks on during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club on July 7, 2017 in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 
Rory McIlroy and wife Erica  arrive  at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 Rory McIlroy and wife Erica arrive at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 
Rory McIlroy and wife Erica  arrive  at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 Rory McIlroy and wife Erica arrive at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 
Rory McIlroy  at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Doing the scores are Adam McClements and Glen Robinson.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

Doing the scores are Adam McClements and Glen Robinson.PICTURE MARK JAMIESON.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Daniel Im on the 18th

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Daniel Im on the 18th Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Daniel Im putts to hold for par on the 18th green and finished his round 8 under

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Daniel Im putts to hold for par on the 18th green and finished his round 8 under Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Jimmy Nesbitt.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Jimmy Nesbitt. Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Rory McIlroy  at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Miss NI Anna Henry.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Miss NI Anna Henry. Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 
Rory McIlroy  at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Oliver Fisher on the 16th green.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Oliver Fisher on the 16th green. Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Rory McIlroy

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Rory McIlroy  at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart during round one

Rory McIlroy at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart during round one

Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Rory McIlroy in action

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy in action Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Rory McIlroy in action

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy in action Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Rory McIlroy in action

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy in action Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Rory McIlroy in action

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy in action Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

Thomas Pieters and Shane Lowry on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Thomas Pieters and Shane Lowry on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

 Shane Lowry on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Shane Lowry on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

Graeme McDowell playing on the 14th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Graeme McDowell playing on the 14th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

Thomas Pieters and Shane Lowry on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Thomas Pieters and Shane Lowry on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 
Mathew Southgate at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 Mathew Southgate at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Graeme McDowell playing on the 14th hole during round one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

Graeme McDowell playing on the 14th hole during round one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

PressEye

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

Shane Lowry on the11th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Shane Lowry on the11th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

Graeme McDowell playing on the11th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Graeme McDowell playing on the11th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello on the11th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello on the11th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

Thomas Pieters putting on the13th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 Thomas Pieters putting on the13th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

England's Matthew Southgate on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 England's Matthew Southgate on the 16th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 
Tommy Fleetwood  at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon.
Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

Pacemaker Press 6/7/2017 Tommy Fleetwood at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart this afternoon. Pic Colm Lenaghan/ Pacemaker

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017

England's Justin Rose on the 13th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com 

Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

PressEye Belfast - Northern Ireland - 6th July 2017 England's Justin Rose on the 13th hole during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Golf Championship at Portstewart Golf Club. Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com Picture by Peter Morrison/PressEye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Branding on from the 16th green.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Branding on from the 16th green. Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

9th fairway

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. 9th fairway Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

View from the 1st tee as Peter Uihlein tees off

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. View from the 1st tee as Peter Uihlein tees off Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Branding on from the 18th green.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Branding on from the 18th green. Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Daniel Brooks on the 9th fairway

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Daniel Brooks on the 9th fairway Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Fans watch the action on the 9th fairway

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Fans watch the action on the 9th fairway Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Simon Khan plays out of the rough

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Simon Khan plays out of the rough Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

José María Olazábal  on the 17th tee

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. José María Olazábal on the 17th tee Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open isn't going far for 2018.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Open isn't going far for 2018.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Peter Uihlein on the 17th tee

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Peter Uihlein on the 17th tee Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Branding on from the 18th green.

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Branding on from the 18th green. Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Peter Uihlein on the 17th tee

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Peter Uihlein on the 17th tee Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Andres Romero on the 17th tee

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 5th July 2017 Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Andres Romero on the 17th tee Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Rory McIlroy in action

Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

Day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club, Co.Derry / Co. Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Rory McIlroy in action Picture by Matt Mackey / presseye.com

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Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy on the 16th green during day two of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Portstewart Golf Club. Niall Carson/PA Wire.

"Those par-fives, if you hit a good drive you'll do well on them. But at the same time, if you're off the fairway, then par is sometimes a very good score on them."

Flawless rounds of 64 from Im and Hebert established the course record at Portstewart and gave the unlikely duo - with a combined world ranking of 796 - a one-shot lead over Jon Rahm, Oliver Fisher and Matthew Southgate.

Southgate did not have a practice round after qualifying for the Open Championship for the third time in four years on Tuesday, but the 28-year-old from Southend fired seven birdies as he thrived on memories of his fourth-place finish last year.

"It completely changed my life," said Southgate, who spent the week of the 2015 Open recovering from an operation for testicular cancer.

"I think the biggest thing for me was that I always thought I was good enough to perform like that, and it was more like proving a point to the rest of the world.

"That put me in a nice place mentally because I stopped worrying about, 'Can you do this, what do other people think of you and have you got the game?'.

"It became, 'Actually Matt Southgate is good enough to compete', which is a huge monkey to get off your back."

Matt Fitzpatrick, David Drysdale and Jamie Donaldson shared sixth place on six under, with Olympic champion Justin Rose and local favourite Graeme McDowell among those a shot further back.


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