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Thursday, 18 July 2019
J B Holmes  (Getty Images)
J B Holmes (Getty Images)

J B Holmes opened up a one shot lead heading into the second round of The Open Championship but he had a host of European Tour stars breathing down his neck at Royal Portrush Golf Club.

The oldest Major Championship was being held in Northern Ireland for the first time in 68 years and there were incredible crowds when local hero and 2011 champion Darren Clarke hit the first tee shot at 6.35am.

On a day when the weather went from tipping rain to glorious sunshine and everything in between, there was a congested leaderboard before a closing birdie saw American Holmes sign for a 66 and a five under par total.

Irishman Shane Lowry took a large and vociferous crowd with him and he signed for a 67 early in the day to be the nearest challenger, a shot clear of 13 players at three under.

Kiwi Ryan Fox recorded the first back nine of 29 in Open history to sit in that group alongside Major champions Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka and Webb Simpson.

Former Race to Dubai champions Tommy Fleetwood and Lee Westwood were also two shots off the lead alongside fellow Rolex Series champions Tyrrell Hatton, Alex Noren and Jon Rahm, with Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Tony Finau, Dylan Frittelli and Robert MacIntyre.

Holmes is a five time winner on the US PGA Tour and has been a member of the United States' last two Ryder Cup winning teams but is searching for a first Major title at an event where he finished third in 2016.

"I was very confident going in," he said. "I felt like I was hitting it really well. I felt like we had a good plan, good line on the golf course. You don't expect to shoot that but I'm not surprised.

"Every time you play in an Open, you're going to have unique conditions where it's going to be windy and more than likely rainy. You just have to accept those conditions and the more you can do that and just try to play one shot at a time, that's really kind of the secret.

"Try not to get too aggressive because it is so windy you can't always have complete control over your ball.

It's a unique experience every time you get to come over here - J B Holmes

"It's a unique experience every time you get to come over here."

Early starter Lowry opened his birdie account at the par three third, rolling in from 12 feet after his tee shot had just clung onto the back of the green.

The 32-year-old picked up another shot on the fifth - where his drive almost hit the flagstick - before closing his front nine with a third gain of the day at the ninth.

Lowry joined MacIntyre at the top of the leaderboard after notching another birdie on the tenth but dropped his first shot at the next to return to three under.

The 2019 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship presented by EGA champion bounced back with a 15 foot birdie at the very next hole before finishing his opening round with six straight pars to set the early clubhouse target with a 67.

Holmes stated his round with a bogey but then never looked back, picking up birdies on the second, third, fifth, 12th, 14th and last.

Rahm and Simpson had also been at five under but suffered late stumbles, while Aphibarnrat, Finau and Fleetwood were all bogey free in their rounds.

The moment of the first morning belonged to Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, who produced a hole-in-one at the 200 yard 13th thanks to a little help from the course. With the flag positioned at the back left corner of the green, the ball hit the shoulder before cruising towards the hole and diving in.

Clarke finished the best of the Northern Irish players as he carded a 71, with World Number Three Rory McIlroy signing for a 79 that was bookended by an eight and a seven.

Francesco Molinari started his defence of the Claret Jug with a 74.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1LOWRY, ShaneIRL18-15
2FLEETWOOD, TommyENG18-9
3FINAU, TonyUSA18-7
T4WESTWOOD, LeeENG18-6
T4KOEPKA, BrooksUSA18-6
T6MACINTYRE, RobertSCO18-5

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