Paul McGinley was the big Irish winner as Italian stallion Francesco Molinari galloped to a course record 63 to grab the first round lead in The 3 Irish Open at soggy Baltray.

Turin native, 26, had eight birdies, an eagle and just one birdie in sensational a nine under par effort to lead by a shot from Sweden’s Johan Edfors.

But McGinley, 42, was able to shrug off a sloppy 71 as he became the favourite to skipper Europe's Ryder Cup side at Gleneagles in 2014 after being named as GB&I captain for September’s Seve Trophy in Paris.

On a day when amateur Shane Lowry shot 67 to lead the Irish charge on five under, McGinley confessed that getting the job was a massive honour and “a step in the right direction” in his bid to become Ireland's first Ryder Cup captain in four years’ time.

McGinley said: “I am looking forward to it. I’ve learnt a lot from my Ryder Cup experiences and want to put that into practice.

“Obviously I’d love to be Ryder Cup captain and this is a step in the right direction. But that is a long way down the road.

“This is a learning process to see if I like it and to see if I am good at it.  It is great that I have been honoured and that the event is happening.

“To be Ryder Cup captain would be a great honour but that is not in my mind right now and I don’t even know if I am going to be good as captain.

“I have three played Ryder Cups, three Royal Trophy matches and two Seve Trophies so I certainly have enough experience to be captain.”

As John Daly hit a four under par 68, Damien McGrane and Rory McIlroy fired 69s to stay in touch with the leaders.

But Padraig Harrington’s poor run of form continued as he lost a ball at the 18th to card a one over par 73 that left him needing an improvement to make the cut.

Hoping the 25 mph winds forcecast will give him a chance to get back into the hunt, Harrington said: “Obviously it would be a tough day ahead of us and I certainly need a tough day to bring myself in any shape or form back into the tournament.”

Graeme McDowell is facing an even bigger challenge after a "terrible" 77.