Craig Hainline of the United States overcame a preparation disrupted by a sudden illness to his father by taking the lead in the first round of the Murphy’s Irish Open at Druids Glen.
The 29 year old from Houston shot a flawless six under par 65 to move a stroke clear of a multi-national chasing pack of four players in Swede Michael Jonzon, Jeev Milkha Singh of India, Australian Jarrod Moseley and England’s Derrick Cooper.
Hainline, who finished tied fifth at Druids Glen last year and managed the same finishing position in the other top Irish event, the Smurfit European Open, admitted he loves to draw in the fresh Irish air.
It did him no harm in the opening round, although Hainline admitted he had been unable to play much golf due to his father, Peter, suffering a heart attack at his Kansas home a few weeks ago.
He said: “He was on a ventilator and a pace maker the first night to keep him alive. It was a scary deal when I first saw him. He has had surgery as one artery was 100 per cent clogged and another was 70 per cent. He was very lucky.”
Fortunately Mr Hainline senior is making a speedy recovery and son Craig returned to Europe to continue his campaign at a venue he loves dearly.
It was an impressive round on a day when several players threatened to emulate that score but failed to do so. Jonzon bogeyed the last when he seemed likely to tie while Singh put aside the disappointment of a nine in his final round at Slaley Hall last week to record his 66.
On the same mark is Moseley, the Heineken Classic winner in Australia earlier in the season. He thanked Belgian sports therapist, Jos Vanstiphout, for a consultation the previous evening which paid an instant dividend.
Michael Long of New Zealand double bogeyed the last to drop from six under to four under – one ahead of two-time winner, Colin Montgomerie, who salvaged a fine 68 from an inauspicious start.
Montgomerie, winner in 1996 and 1997 and beaten by David Carter in a play-off last year, was two over par after five holes and had to get up and down from 180 yards at the sixth to prevent falling three over.
He did that and charged home in 31 blows for a round which left him in a challenging position yet again. He joked: “After six holes, film premieres and the opening of the Scottish Parliament looked a better option!”
However he admitted: “Today was a good effort to come back from a position that looked like a missed cut. To birdie four of the last five holes was very good.”
Defending champion Carter shot a 70, the same as new Compaq European Grand Prix winner David Park and Lee Westwood.
John Daly, the biggest draw of the week, showed no sign of jet lag and turned in an impressive two under par 69.
The 9500 paying customers at Druids Glen were the real winners on the first day. Sponsors, Murphy’s Brewery, had offered a free pint of the black stuff to every member of the public holding a valid entry ticket if anyone managed a hole in one.
Irishman Jimmy Heggarty duly obliged with a six iron at the eighth and just for good measure Peter Baker achieved the same feat with a six iron at the second hole. Sadly, the sponsors’ offer was valid for just one pint!