Hoey starts well as Lowry and Lawrie struggle in Qatar
Michael Hoey, 10th in Abu Dhabi last week, is just four shots off the lead in Qatar. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

Michael Hoey, 10th in Abu Dhabi last week, is just four shots off the lead in Qatar. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

"Well that was just ........ I'll let you insert the missing word."

That was Shane Lowry's tweet after opening the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters with 76 that began with an eagle three and ended with a birdie. 

The rest, especially the homeward nine of 41 blows, was clearly forgettable for the Clara man, who hasn't played four satisfying rounds in the same event since he was third in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews last September. Even then, the final round left him feeling gutted as what could have been a huge win slipped through his fingers.

Shane Lowry making double at the 15th in the first round. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

Shane Lowry making double at the 15th in the first round. Picture: Eoin Clarke www.golffile.ie

Following a missed cut in his first start of the year in Abu Dhabi last week, Lowry is keen to get up and running with time running out to move up from 85th in the world and into the big events that give a player a chance of dreaming for a Ryder Cup qualifying run.

First round leader George Coetzee needed just 21 putts in an eight under 64 to take a one-shot lead over his compatriot Dawie Van der Walt and England’s Steve Webster, who rewrote the history books after starting his round of 65 with an albatross two.

As for the rest of the Irish, it was a day of wildly contrasting fortunes, bookended by Michael Hoey and Peter Lawrie.

As Hoey shot a four under 68 that hinted that he may soon add to his tally to five European Tour wins, Lawrie signed for a dispiriting 80 that only services to deepen his crisis of confidence.

Having broken a run of six straight missed cuts to save his tour card with a brave 18th place finish in the Perth International in October, he began the official 2014 season by missing the cut in the three European Tour events held in South Africa and Hong Kong before Christmas.

Having jettisoned his coach of 12 years, Brendan McDaid, to seek a fresh start with Jamie Gough and a new caddie, he then missed out again in Abu Dhabi last week before today's bitterly disappointing opening round.

Simon Thornton and Damien McGrane signed for two under 70s to match US PGA champion and Ryder Cup star Jason Dufner (and German teen Dominic Foos).

As European skipper Paul McGinley posted a 73 and Gareth Maybin a 74 on a day of low scoring that began with Darren Clarke withdrawing on the putting green with a muscle injury.

The 45-year old former Open winner was set to become the 25th player to play 500 European Tour events but he will have to wait until the Masters to celebrate that milestone.

First round leader George Coetzee in action. Picture © Phil Inglis

First round leader George Coetzee in action. Picture © Phil Inglis

According to the European Tour: 

Coetzee enjoyed some good fortune during his eight under par opening effort, but the 27 year old from Pretoria – who is chasing his debut European Tour title – made the most of his luck with a stunning display on Doha Golf Club’s recently re-laid greens.   

He said: “I was quite lucky to get away with some shots I hit today, but put on another good putting display to finish on a nice number.
“There’s always a lot of luck involved in this game, especially the way I played today. I think I had 21 putts with a three-putt, so that goes to show that I can hit the ball a little bit better. I can’t wait for it all to click, because when I do I might be unstoppable!”
Webster’s game clicked into gear in rapid fashion, as the Englishman struck a five wood from the fairway of the tenth hole 254 yards into the cup for an opening albatross – a first on The European Tour.  
It was the second albatross of Webster’s career – the first came at the 2011 Open d’Italia where, coincidentally, he used the same five wood. 
Webster’s day then got even better with five birdies in his next 12 holes, but after a bogey on the sixth he trails Coetzee by one shot.
Webster said: “There were two people behind the green, and one of them started jumping up and pointing down. So I didn’t know whether it’d gone over the back into the rocks, but when I got up to the green he started clapping. 
“So it was a dream start – I’ve certainly never been three under after one hole before. I didn’t know if it was going to be my day, or whether I’d used up all my luck on the first.
“I played great after that, was just really consistent and gave myself a lot of putts. I was probably a little disappointed with seven under to be honest, because I should probably have finished on nine or ten under.”
The highlight of Van der Walt’s flawless round was an eagle at the first hole, while Ross Fisher closed with an eagle to share fourth place on six under par with Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Francois Calmels and Spanish rookie Nacho Elvira.
A trio of Major champions – Ernie Els, John Daly and Paul Lawrie – are among the six players a further stroke back on five under with Els holing out from a greenside bunker for a closing eagle during his first competitive round with 14 new clubs in his bag.
The French duo of Gary Stal and Romain Wattel and Welshman Stuart Manley were unable to finish when play was suspended at 5.22pm due to darkness, and so will return to the course at 7.15am on Thursday morning to complete their first rounds.

First Round Scores (three players will complete their first rounds on Friday morning after round one was suspended due bad light):

64 G Coetzee (RSA);

65 S Webster (Eng); D Van Der Walt (RSA);

66 R Fisher (Eng); N Elvira  (Esp); F Calmels  (Fra); R Cabrera-Bello (Esp);

67 G Bhullar (Ind); J Daly (USA); T Aiken (RSA); B Grace  (RSA); P Lawrie (Sco); E Els (RSA);

68 M Hoey  (Nir); H Stenson (Swe); M Ilonen  (Fin); S Dyson  (Eng); T Olesen (Den); T Lewis (Eng); S Benson (Eng); T Jaidee (Tha); M Baldwin (Eng); A Cañizares  (Esp); S Kapur (Ind); J Morrison  (Eng);

69 T Hatton (Eng); K Broberg (Swe); S Gallacher (Sco); A Quiros  (Esp); M Siem  (Ger); F Zanotti (Par); J Olazábal (Esp); E Pepperell (Eng); P Hanson (Swe); M Carlsson  (Swe); J Carlsson (Swe); C Doak (Sco); J Parry (Eng); R Bland (Eng); D Fichardt (RSA);

70 J Dufner (USA); B Koepka  (USA); S Kjeldsen (Den); R Derksen (Ned); A Wall (Eng); A Saddier (Fra); M Crespi  (Ita); G Havret  (Fra); M Kaymer (Ger); R Karlsson (Swe); P Uihlein  (USA); R Rock (Eng); M Warren (Sco); D McGrane (Irl); S Thornton (Irl); D Foos (am) (Ger);

71 P Larrazábal (Esp); R Dinwiddie  (Eng); A Sullivan (Eng); M Jiménez (Esp); J Walters (RSA); S Garcia  (Esp); D Willett  (Eng); H Otto (RSA); B Wiesberger  (Aut); J Quesne  (Fra); J Singh (Ind);

72 M Foster (Eng); L Donald  (Eng); C Del Moral (Esp); R Santos  (Por); R Gonzalez (Arg); G Mulroy (RSA); R Jacquelin (Fra); J Kruger (RSA); C Lee (Sco); J Lima  (Por); W Ormsby (Aus); A Pavan (Ita); E Grillo (Arg); P Whiteford (Sco); A Otaegui  (Esp);

73 P McGinley (Irl); S Hansen (Den); C Wood  (Eng); L Slattery (Eng); D Huizing (Ned); V Riu  (Fra); E De La Riva  (Esp); B Rumford (Aus); M Kieffer (Ger); R Kakko  (Fin); D Howell (Eng); S Kim (Kor); T Fleetwood  (Eng); J Jeong (Kor); A Al-Shahrani (am) (Qat);

74 P Waring  (Eng); M Fraser (Aus); T Björn (Den); G Storm  (Eng); J McLeary  (Sco); E Molinari  (Ita); R Sterne  (RSA); R Green (Aus); G Maybin (Nir); J Campillo (Esp); M Madsen  (Den); J Hahn (USA); M Williams (am) (Eng);

75 R Finch  (Eng);

76 S Lowry  (Irl); C Arendell (USA); B Stone (RSA); M Nixon (Eng);

78 A Al Kaabi (am) (Qat);

79 J Hansen  (Den); N Fasth (Swe); J Dantorp (Swe); A Levy (Fra);

80 P Lawrie (Irl); T Levet (Fra);

 ** M Campbell (Nzl) W/D.