Brian Keogh at PGA National Ireland
Medical reports are nothing strange in the post round chat on the European Seniors Tour and while Eamonn Darcy was delighted to remain in the hunt despite a painful back injury, journalistic eyebrows suffered some strain as Scotland’s Sam Torrance gave Ryder Cup skipper Nick Faldo some surprising food for thought.
Asked his opinion of the 2008 skipper’s choice of Paul McGinley and Jose Maria Olazabal as vice-captains designate for the matches at Valhalla, Torrance had no problem describing them as “a slap” and even “an insult.”
Just as Australia’s Stewart Ginn was putting the finishing touches to an impressive five under par 67 that gave him a one-stroke lead over South Africa’s Gavan Levenson in the first round of the AIB Irish Seniors Open, Torrance let fly at Faldo’s first move as European captain.
After signing for a pleasing 71 that left him tied for 10th place with Darcy on one under par, Torrance said: "It’s just a wee bit of a slap, you know. Obviously he thinks he’s got the right men for the job but to me they’re both current Ryder Cup players. They were in the last team. I don’t know. It’s an insult really."
Capped eight times as a player before leading the side that won the Ryder Cup at the Belfry in 2002, Torrance agrees that McGinley and Olazabal are great choices but feels that Faldo has jumped the gun by announcing his lieutenants nearly 16 months ahead of the Kentucky showdown.
“It is not really my call but if I was going to pick two people of that ilk I would not have announced it now,” Torrance said. “I would have waited until three months before and made sure that they weren't going to make the team and then ask them.
“I mean to be honest, certainly Olazabal and probably McGinley, if they didn't make the team would have been in my considerations for a wild card. But to ask them to be vice captains this early is a strange decision.
"The assistant captains mean nothing, with no disrespect to them, until the week. They don’t do anything before it, so he could have waited until maybe June or July of next year, when the team’s almost established."
The Scot’s comments certainly added some spice to a sedate opening day at PGA National Ireland as former Ford Seniors’ Player Championship winner Ginn celebrated his 58th birthday 24 hours ahead of schedule with seven birdies in 67, including four in a row from the 14th.
That left early pace-setter Levenson one adrift on three under with Americans Doug Johnson and Alan Tapie and Italy’s Costantino Rocca sharing third place a shot further back on three under par.
On a day when Denis O’Sullivan putted poorly for a 74, Darcy leads the Irish challenge after a 71 that owed as much to his ability to withstand back pain as it did to keeping a bogey off his card.
While he came into the event wearing a portable electrotherapy device for a rotator cuff problem, the 54-year-old Delgany man had moved the pads that provide pain-killing electrical impulses from his shoulder to his long-suffering lower back long before the finish of his round
"I’m just happy to get in,” grimaced Darcy after carding 17 pars and one birdie. “I just played with a lot of pain out there. This is my old thing - the facet joint in my lower back.
"When you come out after a long winter break you start pounding a few balls instead of maybe just hitting 20 or 30. You get carried away and it just flares up.
While Darcy was hoping that an injection would prevent his early withdrawal from the event, defending champion Torrance was pleased to show his caddie, 18-year-old son Daniel, that the old man can still play a bit.
“I actually played beautifully.” Torrance beamed after a round that featured two bogeys, a double bogey and five birdies. “I’m delighted with my game. I can’t wait for tomorrow. Every shot I wanted to show off, being his dad.”
AIB Irish Seniors Open, PGA National Ireland Par 72 (* amateur)
67 S Ginn (Aus)
68 G Levenson (SA)
69 A Tapie (USA), D Johnson (USA), C Rocca (It)
70 G J Brand (Eng)
71 D Creamer (Eng), P Oakley (USA), K Spurgeon (Eng), J Chillas (Sco), S
Torrance (Sco), E DARCY (Ire), H Carbonetti (Arg), J Bland (SA), J Bruner
72 P O'HAGAN (Ire), B Malley (USA), D Merriman (Aus), P LEONARD (Ire), A
Sowa (Arg), J HEGGARTY (Ire), G Encina (Chi), B Longmuir (Sco), M Clayton
73 R Carrasco (USA), I Mosey (Eng), B Heuchan (Can), B Lincoln (SA), T
Gale (Aus), T Allen (Eng), A Garrido (Spa), J Quiros (Spa), D Good (Aus), G
Ralph (Eng), C Mason (Eng), N Job (Eng), L Carbonetti (Arg), T Johnstone
(Zim), P Dugeny (Fra), M Miller (Sco)
74 L HIGGINS (Ire), M Gray (Sco), R Drummond (Sco), M Pinero (Spa), D J
Russell (Eng), J Hawkes (SA), D O'SULLIVAN (Ire), A Fernandez (Chi), B
Cameron (Eng), G Watine (Fra), A MORROW* (Ire)
75 S Owen (Nzl), J Rhodes (Eng), T Horton (Eng), J Rivero (Spa), T Rastall
(Eng), G Cali (It), N Ratcliffe (Aus), S Martin (Sco), E Rodriguez (Spa)
76 J Mashego (SA), B Larratt (Eng), T Charnley (Eng), P Teravainen (USA),
B Smit (SA)
77 L MacNAMARA* (Ire), M Bembridge (Eng), D Cambridge (Jam)
78 D Durnian (Eng), M Poxon (Eng), J Lapsley (Nzl)
79 M Ferguson (Aus), V Garcia (Spa), E POLLAND (Ire)
80 B Shearer (Aus)
82 J Benda (USA)
89 D MORRIS* (Ire)