Hot finish for Hoey as Cañizares cards super 62
Alejandro Cañizares. Picture © Getty Images

Alejandro Cañizares. Picture © Getty Images

Michael Hoey picked up three shots in his last three holes with a birde-eagle-par finish but still ended up six shots behind runaway leader Alejandro Cañizares in the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco.

Hoey, the 2012 champion, fired a four under 68 to share 10th place at Golf du Palais Royal in Agadir but Spaniard Cañizares carded a career-low, 10-under par 62 to claim a one-stroke lead over England's Seve Benson.

Hoey was one of just two Irish players to break par on the opening day with Damien McGrane's two under 70 good enough for joint 26th as Shane Lowry shot a 72 to lie joint 51st.

Simon Thornton dropped three shots in a row at his 15th, 16th and 17th holes to post a one over 73 that left him just outside the projected cut mark while European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, Waterville's David Higgins, Mount Juliet touring professional Kevin Phelan and the struggling Peter Lawrie all shot four over 76s.

Hoey bogeyed the par-five first but birdied the third and the par-five fifth and 10th holes to get to two under par.

He then mixed the good with the bad coming home, responding to bogeys at the 12th and the 15th with birdie twos at the 13th and 16th before brightening up his card with a sweet eagle three at the 511-yard 17th.

Cañizares made light of the stiff afternoon breeze to fire 11 birdies and one bogey in a scintillating display.

“It was one of those days for me, my swing felt great, I started putting well and the putts went in,” said Cañizares, whose previous low on The European Tour was a 63 in the 2007 Hong Kong Open and the 2009 KLM Open.

“After today the confidence is high, but it hasn’t been there for the last month. After Dubai I started losing a little bit of form, but this game is up and down so you can’t expect the best all the time.

“I was lucky that after a couple of sessions with my coach and a putting session with Phil Kenyon this week, I’m starting to perform much better.

“It’s definitely one of the best rounds I’ve ever played. I missed a couple of drives and from the fairway I missed one shot that cost me a bogey, but that was about it I think.”

Benson, who was named after the late Seve Ballesteros, carded a flawless 63 that featured birdies at his last four holes.

“It felt pretty good to be honest”, said the 27 year old, who is seeking to claim a first European Tour title in his 104th event.

“It was so windy out there on the back nine that pars were a good score, but I just managed to play the tough holes well and sink some putts coming in.

“Capitalising on my chances is the big thing for me. I have been working really hard with my putting coach and it paid off today. I’m very proud of the way I played today, because it wasn’t easy in that wind.”

The brilliant scoring from Cañizares and Benson kept American Connor Arendell off the top of the leaderboard.

Arendell finished eighth at the Qualifying School Final Stage in November to earn his card for this season, but missed the cut in his first four events of 2014. His round of 67 was comfortably the lowest of his fledgling European Tour career and worth a share of third with Sweden’s Magnus A Carlsso.

English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Andy Sullivan and Scot Marc Warren are a shot further back on six under while defending champion Marcel Siem, who missed Wednesday's pro-am with a neck injury, returned a 69.

Scores after round  1:

62 A Cañizares  (Esp)

63 S Benson (Eng)

65 C Arendell (USA), M Carlsson  (Swe)

66 M Warren (Sco), T Fleetwood  (Eng), A Sullivan (Eng)

67 G Bhullar (Ind), P Whiteford (Sco)

68 G Bourdy (Fra), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp), S Dodd (Wal), R Davies (Wal), M Hoey (Nir), W Ormsby (Aus), E Dubois (Fra)

69 L Bjerregaard  (Den), G Coetzee (RSA), R Bland (Eng), M Siem  (Ger), T Lewis (Eng), R Derksen (Ned), J Morrison  (Eng), M Ilonen  (Fin), C Yuan (am) (Chn)

70 R Kakko  (Fin), F Calmels  (Fra), N Elvira  (Esp), A Otaegui  (Esp), R Green (Aus), S Kapur (Ind), P Sjöland (Swe), A Levy (Fra), R Fisher (Eng), A Hartø  (Den), D McGrane (Irl), E De La Riva  (Esp)

71 D Stewart (Sco), B Paolini (USA), R Rock (Eng), B Wiesberger  (Aut), M Crespi  (Ita), R Jacquelin (Fra), M Baldwin (Eng), R Karlsson (Swe), M Kieffer (Ger), M Ito (Jpn), R Dinwiddie  (Eng), D Im (USA), J Campillo (Esp)

72 R Ramsay  (Sco), J Van Zyl (RSA), Y El Hassani (Mar), D Howell (Eng), J Hansen  (Den), A Saddier (Fra), S Lowry  (Irl), S Wakefield (Eng), D Horsey (Eng), G Havret  (Fra), A Kaleka  (Fra), J Lima  (Por), F Zanotti (Par), S Kim (Kor), D Willett  (Eng), F Fritsch  (Ger), P Waring  (Eng), J Heath  (Eng), J Lara (Esp), S Khan (Eng), D Brooks (Eng)

73 B Rumford (Aus), J Dantorp (Swe), S Dyson  (Eng), S Thornton (Irl), G Stal  (Fra), E Goya (Arg), E Molinari  (Ita), D Drysdale (Sco), T Hatton (Eng)

74 R Santos  (Por), S Kjeldsen (Den), N Fasth (Swe), J Doherty  (Sco), E Pepperell (Eng), G Storm  (Eng), S Hansen (Den), M Tullo (Chi), D Huizing (Ned), R Wattel  (Fra)

75 C Lee (Sco), M Lundberg (Swe), C Del Moral (Esp), J Carlsson (Swe), K Broberg (Swe), J Olazábal (Esp)

76 F Serghini  (Mar), M Foster (Eng), P McGinley (Irl), J Hahn (USA), D Higgins (Irl), A Forsyth (Sco), K Phelan (Irl), T Pieters  (Bel), C Wood  (Eng), P Lawrie (Irl), S Walker (Eng)

77 A Gee  (Eng), J Knutzon (USA), M Schneider (Ger), A Pavan (Ita)

78 J McLeary  (Sco), Z Scotland  (Eng)

79 P Larrazábal (Esp), C Doak (Sco), M Korhonen (Fin), V Riu  (Fra), J Kingston (RSA)

80 M Nixon (Eng), J Parry (Eng), S Manley (Wal)

81 A Joudar (Mar)

82 M Madsen  (Den), A Lguirati (am) (Mar)

84 Y Ali  (Eng)

** A Wall (Eng)