New dad Hoey celebrates fatherhood with tidy 67 as he chases fifth tour victory
MICHAEL HOEY provided the most uplifting story on a day so many of the Fighting Irish really came into their own at Carton House.
Precisely one week after his wife Bev gave birth to baby Erin, Hoey underlined his determination to be the perfect provider with a fabulous first-round 67 on the Montgomerie Course. It's a measure of Mr and Mrs Hoey's commitment to the Irish Open that they decided to induce the birth of their first born last Thursday.
Erin was due on Monday of this week, but in common with quite a few golfers, Nick Faldo probably being the most prominent, Hoey and his wife, a doctor, decided to leave nothing to chance.
"It was unbelievable, surreal," said the golfer, trying to express his delight. "That was just seven days ago, but I took several weeks off. I've been doing a bit of practice, but I was just so excited."
Hoey (34), a hugely gifted player, who counts four European Tour wins among his seven victories in 11 years as a professional, is a match for any player on his good days, as he proved by beating Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell on Sunday at the 2011 Dunhill Links.
Yet he's been beggared by inconsistency throughout his career, for example, missing the cut in six out of the last seven tournaments he's played.
In recent months, he's found a cure for his mind-boggling inconsistency, perfecting a one-plane golf swing with Jamie Gough, which yesterday helped him hit 13 of 14 fairways, crucial on a darkly demanding day at Carton.
After making nine birdies in Wednesday's pro-am, Hoey knew something special may be around the corner – "I'm really happy with the way I'm playing," he conceded. "I feared I'd made all my birdies in the pro-am, but I could have been seven or eight-under today.
"I played the Irish Open here seven years ago (missing the cut) and came down six weeks ago and had a practice round. I know the course quite well, as I also used do a couple of things here for sponsors ... it's really in great condition."
Hoey revelled in the atmosphere. "Playing in front of this many spectators is what it's all about. We were playing ahead of Padraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell so the crowds have been massive. It's really just brilliant."
Cian McNamara was similarly inspired, the Monkstown Golf Club professional posting a four-under 68 which should prove to others what the former Irish amateur international has long known himself – that his golf game will not be found wanting in this company.
"I showed I can play the golf on the day. Now I just have to go out and do it again, see what happens and we'll go from there," said McNamara, who remains focused on the idea of extending his shot-by-shot philosophy into today's second round on his 27th birthday.
"I knew myself I shouldn't be looking, but I wanted to see how the boys Lowry and McGinley were doing and, My God, there was my name. To see it up there was a crazy feeling."
Towering Waterford star Seamus Power (26) a former college mate of McNamara in East Tennessee and currently plying his trade on the satellite E-Golf Tour in his adopted home of North Carolina, thrust himself into contention with a 69, a splendid effort matched yesterday by recent St Omer winner Simon Thornton.
It's a measure of the intensity of concentration required to play the Montgomerie Course in such difficult conditions that Harrington excused himself for sitting down on the small stage in the scorer's area before doing a radio interview.
"I'm tired, I put a lot of energy into these rounds," the Dubliner (41) explained, adding with a chuckle: "Beating myself up!"
Four days after his shocking final-round 80 at the Travelers Championship, Harrington showed remarkable resilience and composure to battle back from a nightmare start to match the one-under par 71 posted by his fellow Major Champion McDowell.
"The score itself isn't great but I got a really bad start," said Harrington.
"I made a terrible bogey at the second and dropped another shot (out of a greenside bunker) at the third.
"I really put myself behind the eight-ball and it was a struggle from then on, so making a couple of birdies coming home, especially that four at the last, was nice, so I'm reasonably pleased with the outcome."
Harrington showed confidence in his controversial belly-putter was not dented by last Sunday's debacle by holing-out impressively on several occasions yesterday.
While a a fabulous flop shot from the greenside rough to set up that closing birdie showed there's still life in his short game, he struggled with several approach shots in the cold and heavy atmosphere at Carton.
Despite an infuriating finish, in which he three-putted from the fringe for bogey at 17 and then failed to get up-and-down for birdie from the elevated right rough at 18, McDowell played some truly exquisite golf.
The 200-yard three-iron hybrid the Portrush man hit from the rough to eight feet at 16 certainly challenged for shot of the day, even if McDowell then missed the putt!
Watch out for this guy over the weekend.