McGinley and Maybin lead Irish charge
Tournament host Miguel Angel Jimenez ended the first round of Andalucian Open with a two-over-par 72, while Paul McGinley and Gareth Maybin shared the leading Irish honours at two-under-par on the Parador Malaga course.
Five players -- the Swedish trio of former Scottish Open champion Johan Edfors, Oscar Floren and Rikard Karlberg, plus the England pair of Robert Rock and Jamie Elson -- head the field after signing for 65s.
Of the quintet only Edfors has previously won on the European Tour, although he has not done so since 2006, when he triumphed three times and was unlucky not to make the Ryder Cup team that beat the United States at the K Club.
Darren Clarke recorded a one-under-par 69 and said he could empathise with Jimenez, given he hosted and indeed won the 2003 Benmore Northern Ireland Masters at Clandeboye in Belfast.
"It is fantastic of Miguel to put in his own money," said Clarke. "We all know he lives here in Malaga and how passionate he is about his golf, so it allows him a big part of what he wants to do with the tournament."
Clarke has brought Ricci Roberts, former long-time caddie to Ernie Els, out of retirement and delighted in quizzing those wishing to speak with the Portrush player with a question of his own.
"How many tournament wins do you think Ricci's had in his career? Quick, off the top of your head," Clarke demanded. The closest answer among the scribes was 22 short of the correct figure of 67.
"That's a lot of tournament wins and there's a few Major wins in there as well," said Clarke. "I'm hoping very shortly it will be 68. I am trying to help out. But seriously, Ricci's one of the best caddies in the world and I'm lucky to have him caddying for me."
McGinley had four birdies and two bogeys in his round while Maybin was three-under-par with three to play but dropped a shot at his 16th to join McGinley in a share of 25th place.
Damien McGrane signed for a level-par 70, with Michael Hoey carding a one-over 71 and Shane Lowry a disappointing 75.
Clarke also added some momentum to Colin Montgomerie's remarks that he would accept the 2014 Gleneagles Ryder Cup leadership if invited, despite Paul McGinley seemingly the favourite to lead Europe in three years' time.
"The competitiveness and desire is still well within Monty, whether it be in a playing capacity or otherwise," said Clarke.
"There are quite a few candidates coming up for the captaincy but then, whoever gets the job, if it wasn't Monty, they would be very foolish not to use Monty's experience, knowing Gleneagles as well as he does and given his performance in the last Ryder Cup."
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