Watch out for Shane Lowry on the European Tour this season.

The 22 year old from Offaly is just three shots off the lead after carding a five under par 67 in the opening round Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa - the first event of the 2010 campaign.

He's tied for fifth with Damien McGrane while the impressive Gareth Maybin is  a shot further back alongside three time major winner Ernie Els.

But while the ever-professional McGrane and the cool and clinical Ulsterman Maybin will again threaten to enter the winner's circle in 2009, Lowry's move into the professional ranks has captured the hearts of Irish golf fans.

With a physique that wouldn't look out of place in a monthly medal, he is every inch a fold hero following his fairytale victory as an amateur in the Irish Open at Co Louth last May.

It was one of the great golfing stories of recent years and while he doesn't have to prove anything to anyone, fans still pull for the youngster whose dreams came true on a soggy afternoon.

While he finished 153rd in the money list in 2009 - he didn't earn a cent for winning the 3 Irish Open - Lowry is slowly finding his feet on tour and set his sights of breaking into the world's top 100 before the end of the new season. He was third in the Dunlop Phoenix Tournament in Japan just two weeks ago and he's looking more polished with every round.

His play from tee to green was superb at Leopard Creek on Thursday and had he been a little more clinical on the greens, he might have gone a couple of shots lower such is the wealth of talent at his disposal.

He certainly doesn't bear the scars of veteran Gary Murphy, who had a terrible day with the driver in his first start since surviving Q-School. The Kilkenny man hit just four of 14 fairways yet still shot an even par 72 that included a bogey at the last.

After his well-documented putting woes this year, Murphy regained his card using the left-below right method on the greens. He had just 28 putts in his opening round - eight singles and zero three putts - which suggests that he has found some confidence with the short stick.

Michael Hoey continues to be predictably unpredictable. The Belfast man, winner of his maiden title in Estoril in April, has made just six cuts from 18 since then and an opening 73 does not bode well.

Ill heath has cost him but so have poor opening rounds.