Shane Lowry fired a brilliant 68 on his major debut and roared - “Now I know I belong here.”

The Offaly ace, 22, blasted a 360-yard “bullet” drive onto the 18th green, burned the hole with a 20 foot eagle chance and tapped in for a four under effort that leaves him in contention.

But what pleased him most was the feeling that he definitely has the game to compete with the world’s best.

Lowry beamed: “My caddie Dermo (Dermot Byrne) said it to me coming down the last, ‘If you have any doubts whether you’re able to compete at this level, you’ve just shown it today’.

“I’m pleased with the way I played today and that score and I’m really looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.

“I said to Dermo walking down 18, or on the 17th green, that I had watched the Open here as a kid and to be hitting a tee shot on the last was a dream, really.

“I’m very pleased with my round because I hit great iron shots to the 15th, 16th and 17th.

“I did leave a couple out there and I was unlucky on the last not to hole that putt. But four under, it’s a good start. And what a great score by Rory.

“I saw him tee off on 17 when I was on the second green. It’s a great start to the week for him and you never know, there may be an Irish winner again.”

Lowry confessed that he was nervous before the start and while he bogeyed the second, he birdied the third, fifth, seventh, 10th and 12th to get to four under par.

He three-putted the 13th from 40 yards after a poor second but finished in style with that memorable three at the last.

Glasson’s Colm Moriarty was disappointed to open with a level par 72 after getting to two under par through 10 holes.

But the Challenge Tour regular hopes he can go low today, make the cut and give his confidence a boost after seven years of struggles in the pro ranks.

He said: “I felt quite comfortable out there early on and overall  I’m a little disappointed to shoot level par.

“But if you come to a tournament like this and do well, it could be a mental boost.

“I expected to be doing better on tour than I am and I suppose your confidence takes a hit when you are playing five or six years at the same level on the Challenge Tour.

“But if you do well here, it could be a boost because this is golf at the highest level.”

Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin had two birdies and two bogeys in a level par 72 on his major debut.

The Ulsterman was one under with two to play but bogeyed the 17th before two-putting from the Valley of Sin at the last for a solid opening effort.

“The conditions were tough out there, a lot of cross winds but the main thing was to not shoot myself in the foot and I did that,” said Maybin, who relaxed before his late tee tim with a visit to RAF Leuchars. “Now it’s all about going out there a shooting a low number. I’m not thinking about the cut or anything like that, just going out and playing some good golf.
“I’m staying on the RAF base this week so the guy I’m staying with took me out and showed me the Tornadoes and the F3s so that was a pretty cool way to spend the morning.
“It was great to get away from the golf for a while, I then sat down and watched a bit on the television, learnt about some of the pin positions and then went out and played.
“Conditions were tough, there were a lot of cross winds and when the rain came in it was very tricky. In a tournament like this you’re not going to gain very much by shooting level par so its not very pleasing and I know what I have to do tomorrow.
“Links golf is so unpredictable and there’s not much you can do about the weather so you just have to take what you’re given and keep plugging away.”