No sweat for Lawrie to smash course record
Dapper Dubliner Peter Lawrie delivered a regal, record 64 on Le Palais Royal course yesterday as he strode serenely to the top of the first-round leaderboard at the Trophee Hassan II golf tournament in Agadir, Morocco.
Boosted by an eagle three on his opening hole, the 10th, Lawrie played sublimely in sweltering heat, landing two eagles to lead John Bickerton, Shiv Kapur and defending champion Rhys Davies by three strokes on eight-under-par.
Lawrie, 37 last week, picked up three birdies in four holes around the turn. A bogey at the par-four third would be a mere hiccup as he rebounded with his second eagle three at the fifth and picked up two more shots at seven and eight.
"I got off to a great start, holing out from about 25 feet for eagle," said Lawrie. "After that I played lovely, gave myself lots of chances and made one stupid bogey where I missed the green left on the third and didn't get up and down.
"I then missed a very short birdie putt on the next, but apart from that it was lovely.
"I think this heat actually worked in my favour as I was so busy thinking about hydrating myself it took my mind off the game. We got very lucky with the draw. The wind calmed down on the back nine."
Rookie of the Year in 2005 and winner of the Spanish Open in '08, Lawrie has been making steady progress up the European Tour ranks, banking nearly €846,000 in a career-high 36th place in the Race to Dubai in 2010.
On yesterday's evidence, he looks ready to step up and claim another tournament title, though there is no shortage of competition in the race for this week's €250,000 first prize.
For a start, Davies, who won this title in Rabat last year, is one of the smoothest finishers on the European Tour.
The Scottish-born Welshman and Kapur shot five-under 67s on the Royal Palace Course, while Bickerton posted a five-under 66 on the nearby Ocean Course.
Lawrie could face a considerable challenge from his fellow countrymen in a tournament which is run in a Pro-Am format for the first 36 holes and then becomes professionals-only on Le Palais Royal, a classy Robert Trent Jones course, at the weekend.
Darren Clarke, enjoying a couple of days of golf with his father Godfrey, signed for a two-under-par 69 on the Ocean Course.
That score did little justice to the quality of his golf in the searing hot breezes which blew until lunchtime yesterday, making club selection a nightmare in the morning.
Damien McGrane was still within striking distance of the lead after his one-under-par 70 at the Ocean, while fellow Irishmen Michael Hoey and Paul McGinley were tied 52nd after signing for level par 71s, the Dubliner picking up an eagle three on his way.
Shane Lowry started impressively, sweeping to two-under-par through seven holes on the Ocean Course, but then hit the wall, racking up six bogeys and two treble-bogey sevens on his way to a dispiriting 81.
Meanwhile, Martina Gillen was tied fifth, four strokes off Australian Kristie Smith's first-round lead at the Lalla Meryem Cup, the Ladies European Tour event being staged at Agadir's Soleil Golf Course.
After opening impressively with birdies on her first two holes, Tara Delaney fell back into a tie for 76th with a six-over-par 78.
Rebecca Codd (nee Coakley) slumped to a nine-over-par 81 and Hazel Kavanagh shot 82.
Elsewhere, Dubliner Niall Kearney opened with an eagle three and picked up three birdies around the turn to lie one shot off the clubhouse lead of England's Chris Lloyd through 12 holes as play in the rain-delayed first round of the Barclays Kenya Open halted at dusk in Nairobi.
Gary Murphy was tied 148 after completing his first 18 holes at this European Challenge Tour event in eight-over-par 79.
Trophee Hassan II,
Live, Sky Sports 3, 1.0