No lucky number for struggling stars at devilish seventh
Seven was definitely not a lucky number for the majority of the golfers on view in Royal County Down yesterday.
The seven in question was hole number seven, a par-3 measuring 134 yards in round one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish open.
This is the shortest hole on the course, but has a devilish tendency to make skilled golfers look foolish and raise their blood pressure to dangerously high levels.
Rory McIlroy took a bogey four there - he had to play in from the adjoining sixth fairway after his tee shot went way left.
Paul McGinley had, as he said described it, "a sad story" on the hole.
"Like everybody I've got a sad story, double bogey on the seventh," he lamented. "I hit an 8-iron, in the middle of squally showers.
"The ball ballooned in the air, and came down in the rough short of the green into a horrendous lie.
"I could barely move it from there, and knocked it into bunker and didn't get up and down. It's a brutal hole."
Michael Hoey, who registered a level-par 71 overall, was playing behind McIlroy's group, and took double bogey five on the seventh.
"That was really my only poor play of the day. I thought about it too much," the Belfast man explained.
"I saw Rory and everybody left and in the bunker. About ten minutes before we played a big rain shower came in and Rory had played 6-iron.
"The wind died and I should have played 8-iron but I used a 7-iron. Didn't commit to it. I blocked it right, had a bad lie, then went over the back and it was a hard two-putt."
Hoey actually took aim at the spectators lining the right side of the hole, with the intention of allowing for the wind drifting it back to the right-hand side.
It didn't work out and there went another victim of the seventh.
He was happy to recover and play steady golf to keep himself in touch.
Graeme McDowell had warned that there could be "carnage" at that hole in the strong winds, and over the next few days, he could be proven correct.
Credit is due to Tyrone man Darren Clarke, and to Spain's Jorge Campillo, Anthony Wall of England, Jason Barnes (England), Eddie Pepperell (England), Romaine Wattel (France), Tom Murray of England, South Africa's Trevor Fisher Jr, Fabrizio Zanotti (Paraguay), Gregory Bourdy (France) and Marco Crespi of Italy.
These players managed to gouge a birdie two from hole number seven.
In Clarke's case, that two was one of the few highlights of his day en route to a 76, five over, and morale dented as his pre-tournament hopes for a good start never materialised.
"I didn't play well, didn't do anything well. Hit the ball poorly. Wrong clubs between myself and my caddie," he explained.
"My distance control was off, and I still couldn't get it within 50 feet of the hole a lot of times and you can't really afford to do that on this golf course.
"There's holes you've got to take advantage of and I was making bogeys on those holes.
"So all in all Royal County Down is too stern a test to do that and anybody that isn't quite at the top of their game is going to have that on this course.
"It was just a bad day. The course was great. It was tough but fair, and you know, I just didn't play well."