Damien McGrane opened with a four under 68 to lie just three shots behind leader Ricardo Santos of Portugal in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
The 41-year old from Kells played superbly all day, shooting his first bogey-free round since he posted a final round 66 in last September’s Italian Open.
Having failed to qualify for the season-ending DP World Tour Championship for the second season in a row last year, McGrane was determined to make a fast start to his 2013 campaign.
Coming off a missed cut in Abu Dhabi last week, he made a good start on the opening day at Doha Golf Club as he hit 10 of 14 fairways, 14 greens and took just 28 putts as he picked up birdies at the par-five 10th, 18th and first holes and a sweet birdie three at the 12th.
Tied for 11th, he’s just three strokes adrift of 2012 Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year Santos, who fired a seven under par 65 to lead by one from Frenchman Alex Kaleka, England’s Anthony Wall and Scotland’s Peter Whiteford.
Despite incurring a one-stroke penalty on the 17th after his ball moved as he addressed an 18-inch putt, world No 4 Justin Rose signed for a four under par 68, which was matched by playing partner Martin Kaymer.
The third player in that group, world No 5 Louis Oosthuizen, signed for a 71 after a double bogey seven at the final hole.
Santos was pleased to finish birdie-birdie and set up the chance to add to his lone European Tour win last season.
“I just played really well, especially my short game,” said Santos, who became Portugal’s first home winner on the European Tour when he claimed the 2012 Madeira Islands Open – Portugal. “My short game today was really amazing, especially the putts.
“It’s really important for me and for Portugal as well. We need to welcome more players and I think was really important to play my first season on the main Tour (in 2012) and win a tournament, especially in your home country.”
Rose’s day would have been better had it not been for a one-shot penalty on the 17th green, applied for his ball moving after he had grounded his putter.
“Unfortunately I was on the wrong end of it, but that’s the good thing about golf, you sort of self-police out there and nobody else saw it in the group,” said the Englishman. “I knew that the ball had moved when I had addressed it.”
Michael Hoey struggled off the tee but still managed four birdies in a two under 70 that left him tied for 36th but the rest of the Irish are outside the projected one-under par cut mark after a day of fine weather and low scoring.
Peter Lawrie holed little in a level par 72 while Gareth Maybin had 34 putts to join the Dubliner and defending champion Paul Lawrie in a share of 70th.
New-appointed European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley made a fast start with birdies at the first two holes but then bogeyed three of the next six and parred his way home for a one over 73 and joint 96th.
First round scores:
65 R Santos (Por);
66 A Kaleka (Fra); P Whiteford (Sco); A Wall (Eng);
67 A Sullivan (Eng); B Rumford (Aus); M Wiegele (Aut); G Lockerbie (Eng); S Khan (Eng); C Wood (Eng);
68 A Hansen (Den); P Hanson (Swe); M Kaymer (Ger); M Campbell (Nzl); J Rose (Eng); M Fraser (Aus); D Horsey (Eng); T Olesen (Den); L Gagli (Ita); V Dubuisson (Fra); A Hartø (Den); Damien McGrane (Irl); R Green (Aus);
69 D Howell (Eng); S Webster (Eng); M Warren (Sco); R Gonzalez (Arg); G Coetzee (RSA); M Manassero (Ita); J Sjöholm (Swe); S Garcia (Esp); G Fdez-Castaño (Esp); S Henry (Sco); G Mulroy (RSA); F Aguilar (Chi);
70 F Zanotti (Par); T Lewis (Eng); H Stenson (Swe); B Grace (RSA); J Kruger (RSA); B Wiesberger (Aut); G Havret (Fra); P Casey (Eng); Michael Hoey (Nir); L Slattery (Eng); S Chowrasia (Ind); T Jaidee (Tha);
71 C Lloyd (Eng); J Gonnet (Fra); G Bourdy (Fra); R Cabrera-Bello (Esp); T Aiken (RSA); S Dyson (Eng); E Molinari (Ita); P Meesawat (Tha); M Foster (Eng); A Noren (Swe); M Ilonen (Fin); R Bland (Eng); C Cévaër (Fra); D Fichardt (RSA); T Levet (Fra); E Goya (Arg); O Fisher (Eng); R Derksen (Ned); S Wakefield (Eng); I Garrido (Esp); L Oosthuizen (RSA); J Dufner (USA);
72 J Parry (Eng); S Kjeldsen (Den); M Lafeber (Ned); E Kofstad (Nor); C Doak (Sco); C Lee (Sco); A Cañizares (Esp); T Fleetwood (Eng); H Otto (RSA); K Horne (RSA); J Walters (RSA); R Wattel (Fra); T Björn (Den); D Drysdale (Sco); J Edfors (Swe); S Gallacher (Sco); E Els (RSA); P Lawrie (Sco); Gareth Maybin (Nir); J Lara (Esp); J Singh (Ind); M Lundberg (Swe); Peter Lawrie (Irl); C Montgomerie (Sco); M Siem (Ger); M Williams (am) (Eng);
73 P Price (Wal); N Fasth (Swe); P Waring (Eng); M Baldwin (Eng); J Hansen (Den); A Tadini (Ita); A Dodt (Aus); G Storm (Eng); T Hamilton (USA); K Broberg (Swe); R Jacquelin (Fra); Paul McGinley (Irl);
74 R Goosen (RSA); R Finch (Eng); R Coles (Eng); J Campillo (Esp); S Jamieson (Sco); P Erofejeff (Fin);
75 F Andersson Hed (Swe); P Larrazábal (Esp); C Paisley (Eng); M Kieffer (Ger); D Foos (am) (Ger);
76 M Lampert (Ger); G Al Kuwari (am) (Qat);
77 J Busby (Eng); J Olazábal (Esp); E Grillo (Arg);
78 E Pepperell (Eng);
81 S Al Kaabi (am) (Qat);
83 J Thornton (Eng);