Sport Golf

Saturday 20 January 2018

Dunbar and Hoey put home woes behind them

Michael Hoey
Michael Hoey

William S Callahan

MICHAEL HOEY and Alan Dunbar didn't dwell too long on the disappointment of last week's missed cut at the Northern Ireland Open as they blazed straight into contention in two vastly different arenas.

Hoey scampered into a share of sixth at Crans-Sur-Sierre after his best first round at the Omega European Masters, a polished 67, which also tied his career low in 19 rounds played at the spectacular Swiss Alpine resort.

Dunbar (23) also shot four-under as a faultless opening 66 sent him soaring like a gull to the top of the leaderboard in the Open Cotes d'Amor at Pleneuf Val Andre on Brittany's sandy northern shore.

Hoey (34), who picked up his fifth European Tour title at this summer's Russian Open, looked comfortable among the movers and ball-shapers dominating the leaderboard in Crans.

Leader Anirban Lahiri (26), who has won three times in his native India but not outside the sub-continent, is not a household name in Europe. He missed the cut on his three previous appearances in the Swiss mountains but yesterday posted an eight-under total early in the day which was never threatened.

"I've learned my lessons over the last few years: the first couple of years I was lost and didn't know what to do with altitude and my yardages were all over the place," said Lahiri.

Iconic figures figured prominently among the Indian's closest pursuers.

Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez (49) was just two off the pace on six-under after opening his 25th consecutive appearance at Crans with a controlled 65.

"I can play this course with my eyes closed. I love it. The changes have made a great course even better," said 2010 champion Jimenez, who is joint- second with July's Irish Open winner Paul Casey and another Englishman, Tommy Fleetwood, who claimed his maiden European Tour success at Gleneagles last Sunday week.

Thomas Bjorn, who won the 2011 European Masters, was next in the pecking order after a well-crafted 66, while Jose Maria Olazabal, who registered his first European Tour victory at Crans in 1986, was one back in sixth with Hoey and four others.


Darren Clarke also enjoyed the strategic challenge as he played the opening nine in three-under, though the 5,000 feet altitude and hilly terrain appeared to take its toll on the back nine as he stalled with eight pars and a bogey at the short 16th.

Padraig Harrington shared 46th on one-under with, among others, Gareth Maybin. The wayward Dubliner had reason to be grateful the rough is thin after a dry, hot summer. He missed eight of 13 fairways but scrambled gamely enough to suggest he can make the weekend.

Simon Thornton was just inside the projected cut mark after his 71, while Peter Lawrie (72) and Damien McGrane (73) had a bit of catching up to do.

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