Hoey finds driving touch

By Brian Keogh

Michael Hoey found his driving touch to share the lead at The European Club.

The Belfast man, 27, fired five birdies and three bogeys in a 69 to join Padraig Harrington and Brendan McGovern at the top the leaderboard.

Mallow's Michael Collins, Waterville's David Higgins, Dubliner Noel Fox and veteran Philip Walton are just a shot off the pace after one under par 70s.

But Hoey was simply delighted with his effort after missing the cut in last week's European Open.

Hoey said: "My driving was good. A lot better than last week at the K Club after a few changes in practice. You have to drive it well round here but it wasn't all drivers. I hit a lot of three-woods, trying to get a nice flight on the ball.

"It is a great golf course with mixtures of Royal Portrush, Royal Portstewart and Royal County Down. It is great.

"I was three under after six and the only other bogeys were from errant tee shots. But I was two under for the last four which was really positive."

Fox was one over par at the turn after following a birdie at the fifth with a double bogey at the seventh.

But he bounced back strongly with birdies at the 13th and 15th to trail the leaders by one stroke.

And it was also a good day for Ryder Cup hero Walton as he bids for his fifth Irish Professional title.

Three under par after seven holes, he bogeyed the 18th and the second to drop back to one under.

A birdie-bogey run at the third and fourth left him well in the hunt and while he birdied the seventh, he double bogeyed the eighth before holing from eight feet at the ninth to keep the leaders in his sights.

The disaster of the day came for Cabinteely 21 year old Robert Hogan as he crashed to a nightmare 105.

The former assistant at Greenore ran up a nine at his opening hole and a 12 at the par four 17th on his front nine.

A closing 11 ended a miserable day but he still raised a smile.

He said: "It was just the rough. I lost a lot of balls out there. Nearly ran out but life goes on."