Gareth Maybin in Abu Dhabi earlier this year. Picture Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ieGareth Maybin opened with a Faldo-esque 18 pars in a row in the inaugural Sicilian Open.

But the Ulsterman’s level par 71 left him six strokes behind joint leaders Jose Manuel Lara and Stephen Dodd at Donnafugata Golf Resort and Spa.

Lara and Dodd lead by a shot from Raphael Jacquelin and Anthony Wall with Damien McGrane the best of the Irish contingent after a one under par 70.

“I played pretty poor and by wedges were terrible,” Maybin said. “All in all I probably deserved level par - nothing better, nothing worse.”

Faldo famously finished with 18 straight pars to win the 1987 Open at Muirfield. But it wasn’t quite what the Ballyclare man had in mind.

“Obviously you are thinking about it. I had a good chance for birdies on 16 and 17 and didn’t hit great putts and got lucky to make a good par on 18.

“I was trying for birdies, trust me. I didn’t want to shoot 18 pars. I guess it is another I have done in golf but it is not really what you want out there on a day like this. The first person to mention it was my caddie on the 18th.

“To have three weeks off, and I have had a bad finger after hirting it in the gym, it’s not too bad to shoot level par. I just sprained it badly, but it is getting a lot better.”

Offaly Shane’s Lowry returned to action for the first time this season after fracturing his wrist over Christmas, shooting a one over 72 that left him tied with Dubliner Peter Lawrie.

The Clara native was two under par with eight to play when he followed a bogey at the first with birdies at the fifth, seventh and 10th.

But he double bogeyed the par-five 12th and bogeyed the 14th in a homeward 38 that left him well down the field.

It was also an up and down day for McGrane, who turned in three under par thanks to birdies at the 10th, 12th and 16th.

But after bogeys at the first, fifth and sixth, he needed a birdie three at the ninth for an opening 70.