Thursday, 28 July 2011
Jeev Milkha Singh  (Getty Images)
Jeev Milkha Singh (Getty Images)

Indian Jeev Milkha Singh outshone Ireland's four Major stars with a dazzling eight under par 63 when the Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland began at Killarney.

The 39 year old son of a former Olympic sprinter known as 'The Flying Sikh' came out of the blocks with an eagle and six birdies to equal the lowest round of his career.

It was six strokes better than Darren Clarke, who recovered well from hitting his first shot as Open Champion into a hazard, seven better than US Open Champion Rory McIlroy, nine better than last year's US Open winner Graeme McDowell and ten better than three-Major winner Padraig Harrington.

Another of the Irish contingent, former Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley, described Singh's putting as the best he had ever seen.

"I don't know whether it was a good thing or a bad thing, but 59 did cross my mind," said the three-time European Tour winner, now outside the world's top 200 after suffering shoulder and back injuries last season.

The thought came when he had four holes to play. He needed to birdie them all, but even though he parred them he was still two clear of France's Alexandre Kaleka as he spoke afterwards.

The eagle came courtesy of a 30 foot putt on the 513 yard seventh, but what gave him most confidence happened last Sunday in Sweden.

In strong winds the par three island green 17th was a nightmare for most of the field - Steve Webster took 11 and Fredrik Andersson Hed a 12 - but Singh made only of only three birdies.

Sixth place there was his best finish on the circuit for more than two years and now his sights are aimed much higher.

Most of the 18,000 crowd, though, had come to see their own leading lights and Clarke said of his walk up the 18th: "I felt like I was winning a tournament - it's been very special."

The 42 year old is still under the weather after his post-Open celebrations last week were followed by a "self-inflicted" dose of flu, but he was not seeking any excuses.

"I didn't come here to make up the numbers," he added. "I hit a lot of good shots and had lots of chances, but didn't quite have the speed of the greens."

McIlroy reached four under after ten early in the day and led by two - Singh had not even teed off by then - but bogeyed the 11th and went in water for a closing double bogey.

McDowell was hoping to hit back from missing the cut at Sandwich, but has been having treatment for a sore back.

"It generally loosens out, but didn't really this morning and I got a little stuck with a few irons shots," he stated.

"It's not alarm bells, just a little bit of stiffness. I might have a couple of medicinal pints tonight just to loosen the back!"

Last year's runner-up Harrington also made an early departure from

The Open and at 64th in the world feels things just are not going his way at the minute.

"Golf is a strange game," said the Dubliner. "At one under (after ten) I was thinking four under and it turned around very quickly."

He bogeyed three of the next four and, like Singh, parred in from there.

Singh's lead was cut to two late in the day by Kaleka, The European Tour rookie making five birdies in a row from the 12th and then another at the last.

Former US Open Champion Michael Campbell, now down at 701st in the world, had an eagle and three birdies in the last five to be joint third with Swede Christian Nilsson and German Marcel Siem on five under and defending champion Ross Fisher amongst those only one further back.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1DYSON, SimonENG18-15
2GREEN, RichardAUS18-14
3GALLACHER, StephenSCO18-12
T5GARRIDO, IgnacioESP18-10
T5KALEKA, AlexandreFRA18-10
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