Jeev Milkha Singh’s outrageous up and down on Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort’s ninth hole – his 18th of the first round – saw the Indian join Australia’s Richard Green in a share of the lead at The Irish Open.
Green and Singh lead last year’s runner-up Bradley Dredge, Sweden’s Johan Edfors, Frenchman Michael Lorenzo-Vera and Germany’s Marcel Siem by two on the opening day leaderboard, while defending champion Padraig Harrington carded a level par 72.
Singh was six under par playing his last hole of the day but looked unlikely to finish on that number when he crashed his third shot approach to the ninth into the greenside bushes.
After removing some television cables and taking an awkward stance in the bushes, Singh almost holed his chip, but he missed the pin by millimetres and had to watch his ball careering some 40 feet past the cup.
He was not to be denied though as he took dead aim with his putter and slammed home his par putt to sign for an outstanding six under par 66 to take a share of the lead with left-hander Green.
“When I saw the ball, I knew the first thing is to go to the referee and make sure that I could take a stance without breaking any rules because there was a chance of being penalised,” said Singh. “ So that's why I called David Probyn in there, and he told me the way to get in there without touching anything.
“I was just trying to chip it out from there and it came out perfect. Missed the hole and went to about 40 feet away; I was happy with that. I said okay, I know I can make a six, but when I rolled that putt, I know it looked pretty good, like it was going in, and it did. And that's the story of the day really - I made a lot of great up and downs today.”
While Singh was thrilling the crowds with his dramatic finale to his first round, Green was already safe in the clubhouse on six under par.
“I think the focus was pretty good today, that was the key,” smiled Green. “ I just focused very hard on concentrating and it worked out pretty well. I hit some pretty nice iron shots, which kind of surprised me a little bit because my iron play hasn't been that great the first half of the year.
“My confidence is good coming into this tournament. I played well here last year, had some good rounds of golf here and I think that helped the round today.”
Harrington was pleased with the way he performed in front of the huge crowds that followed himself, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell – who carded a two over 74 – and Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth, who outscored his playing partners with a one under 71.
“I suppose 72 doesn't look that good when you see six under par leading but it is a tough golf course,” said Harrington. “But by the end of the week, that 72 won't have played me out at this stage – there is a lot of golf to be played.”
Rory McIlroy leads the Irish challenge after the 19 year old’s two under par 70, while Peter Lawrie, winner of the Open de España two weeks ago, produced a rousing finish of four birdies in his closing six holes to move to one under par at the end of round one.
BMW Asian Open champion Darren Clarke finished the day alongside Harrington on level par, but it was Green and Singh who gave the packed Irish galleries the most to cheer on a beautiful opening day at the Adare Manor Hotel and Golf Resort.