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Ladbrokes Irish Professional Championship: Mooney clicks as 66 puts him out in front

By Karl MacGinty

Damian Mooney was in dreamland last night as he surged to the top of the leaderboard on day one of the Ladbrokes Irish Professional Championship.

The big-hitting Belfast-man turned on the style at Seapoint with an opening round of 66 to sit on top of the perch.

Mooney certainly put his prodigious hitting power to good use with a superlative round which included seven birdies in a sensational nine hole stretch from 16.

He also stitched together an impressive string of eight threes in nine holes, claiming: “all the credit must go to Johnny Foster,” the former Irish international who is club pro at Greenacres in Carrickfergus.

“Johnny's been coaching me for two months. He's the best I've ever seen,” he commented.

“Damien played great and hit the ball brilliantly,” enthused Des Smyth.

“He's a real power hitter. He drove it straight over the bunker at 12 and that's a 270 yards carry.”

Course designer Smyth, 57, who won on the European Seniors Tour just three weeks ago, shot a “satisfying” 69, leaving him tied third with Donegal's Brian McElhinney.

Sandwiched between Mooney (pictured) and Smyth is Neil Manchip who turned birdie-poacher, outshooting his star pupil Shane Lowry by three as he swept to within one shot of Mooney with a sweet 67.

Manchip, 37, who has been National Coach to the Golfing Union of Ireland since 2005, stirred memories of his victory over Darren Clarke and a host of other Tour stars in this Championship 11 years ago with the superior quality of his iron play and putting.

Delighted for once to have the bragging rights over Lowry, the proud Scotsman said with a smile: “Shane normally shows me the way and gives me a good slagging for my lack of distance.”

Lowry himself was pleased to pick up three birdies in his final five holes for a 70 and a share of fifth on two-under.

Tournament favourite Damien McGrane opened with a nightmare double-bogey seven at 10, where he took two to get out of a fairway bunker and then three putted.

Three over after four holes, the Meathman then showed his trademark resilience, landing birdies at 16, 17, 18 and seven, for a 71, leaving him among the 23 players under par at day's end.

Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington grabbed seven birdies and yet still found himself seven shots off the lead after the opening day of the Vivendi Cup in Paris.

Harrington signed for a four under par 68, but an hour later Swede Johan Edfors completed a 61 which equalled the low round of the European Tour season and knocked two strokes off his best score on the circuit.

It gave him a two-shot lead over David Dixon, while the scoring was such that Harrington did not even make the top 20.

Belfast Telegraph


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