Thursday, 24 March 2005
Northern Ireland’s Michael Hoey kept the Irish feelgood factor going in Indonesia as he carded an eight under par 62 to share the clubhouse lead with India’s Arjun Atwal at the end of the first day of the Enjoy Jakarta Standard Chartered Indonesia Open.

Eleven days ago Dublin's Padraig Harrington captured his first US PGA Tour title, then on Sunday, Hoey’s fellow Ulsterman Graeme McDowell enjoyed one of the best week’s of his career so far, finishing joint second in the Bay Hill Invitational. That performance in particular clearly inspired Hoey at the Cengkareng Golf Club in Jakarta.

Hoey and McDowell were team-mates in the 2001 Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side that defeated the United States 15-9 at Sea Island, Gerogia, the two Ulsterman pairing up in the foursomes to win both their matches. That side also included the English duo of Luke Donald and Nick Dougherty, who, like McDowell, have enjoyed the first taste of victory on The European Tour International Schedule.

Hoey, who also won the Amateur Championship in 2001, has yet to make that breakthrough but after a solid start to his season on the European Challenge Tour, where he recorded three top fives in the early season events in Latin America, is poised to join the growing band of young guns taking the golfing world by storm.

“Graeme has been giving me encouragement for the past couple of years,” said 26 year old Hoey. “Nick Dougherty won in Singapore this year and Luke Donald is doing so well. It shows us all that is possible to do well. We had a good Walker Cup team and I hope I can make an impact this year.”

Hooking up recently with a sports psychologist could also give Hoey the edge that he is desperately looking for. His self confidence was given a boost when he received a text message from mental trainer Mark Elliot, who wrote "Don't forget who you are. You are a good player" and Hoey lived up to the words.

"Sometimes I ask why I can't (achieve success) but you can't think of that. You just have to try and improve your game. My golf coach Andrew Nicholson has helped me with my technique and I'm working with Mark and he's giving me a lot of encouragement. He sent me a text yesterday and stuff like that really helps," he said.

Hoey dropped two early shots after starting at the tenth to lie two over after four holes but then burst into life, recording eight birdies and an eagle on the sixth hole, where he holed a monster putt from 70 feet, to take a share of the lead.

Joining him at the top was fellow European Tour Member Atwal, the former Asian Tour Number one shrugging off a head cold as he picked up eight birdies in his flawless 62 in the event jointly sanctioned by The European Tour and the Asian Tour.

Atwal, who celebrated his 32nd birthday last weekend, has already won two joint sanctioned events with victories in the 2002 Caltex Singapore Masters and the 2003 Carlsberg Malaysian Open, in addition to five titles on the Asian Tour.

"I hit some bad shots but didn't let it get to me,” said Atwal. “The course is there for the taking, you can make some birdies out there. I started with a 62 in my last European win and the club manager who was at the Mines Resort in Malaysia is now running this club here. It could be a good sign."

A stroke back were South African Chris Williams, who enjoyed a bogey free 63, and England's Matthew Cort. Five players, India's Gaurav Ghei, Japan's Eiji Mizoguchi, American Ron Won and Australian duo Andrew Buckle and Scott Barr, a recent runner-up at the Thailand Open, are bunched at 64.

Cort played on The European Tour for three seasons before losing his playing privileges in 2004. He turned his attention to the Asian Tour where he earned his card through Qualifying School and a win in Jakarta could give him a ticket back to Europe, especially if he maintains the form that saw him turn in six-under.

"It was good. I got off to a really fast start and got some shots close. I was working on an eight foot radius on the putting green yesterday and it seemed every putt was inside that and it kind of worked well for me. Six under after nine, and then to finish on seven, I guess I didn't take advantage.

"I was telling a lot of people before I came out for these two events that I don't have a ranking on the European Tour. Obviously I want to get back in. This start has given me a good chance but scoring will be very low. I've just got to keep making the birdies," said Cort, who has John Roberts as his caddie this week. Roberts caddied for Simon Dyson when the Englishman won the Asian Order of Merit in 2000.

Montgomerie, seven-time European Number One, bogeyed two par three challenges and missed several birdie opportunities as he finished the day five shots behind his playing partner, Atwal, on three under par.

Play was suspended for two hours from 2pm local time due to a lightning storm which means that 57 players will return tomorrow morning to complete their first rounds.

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