High winds saw Ireland's six hopefuls soar to a combined 21 over par — with none of them in red figures — in the rain-delayed NH Collection Open at La Reserva de Sotogrande in Spain.
Simon Thornton and Damien McGrane recovered from triple bogey sevens at the first to open with two over 74s and lead the Irish challenge alongside Shane Lowry (10 holes) and David Higgins (11 holes) when play was suspended for the day because of darkness.
The €600,000 dual ranking event was delayed by two hours and 40 minutes in the morning because of rain but when play finally began, European Tour rookie Jack Doherty of Scotland stormed into the clubhouse lead with a three under par 69 in difficult conditions.
“It was a tough day. We had a 20 yard wind on the front nine and almost a 30 yard wind on the back nine, so it was strong wind. The ball is going a long way downwind and it’s hardly going anywhere into the wind, but I practice on the west coast of Scotland which is normally quite windy, so I know how to play it and I just stuck to my game plan.
“The course is lovely, it’s my first time here and I enjoyed it. I like the way it sets up and it’s in good condition. Considering we had lots of rain yesterday and last night, the course has held up nicely and the greens are fast, especially downwind.”
Doherty leads by one stroke from Welshman Bradley Dredge (70) but Irish pair McGrane and Thornton could be happy with their 74s and a provisional share of 57th after both opened their rounds with sevens.
Waterford Castle's Kevin Phelan also opened with a seven and added two birdies and two bogeys to post a three over 75.
Peter Lawrie's nightmare shows no sign of ending as he shot a 10 over 82, his worst round on the European Tour since he carded a windblown 86 in the opening round of the 2002 North West of Ireland Open at Ballyliffin.
The popular Dubliner has made just two cuts since the Irish Open last June.
He began on the back nine with bogeys at the 10th and 11th and ran up a triple bogey seven at the 12th before following a birdie at the 17th with yet another triple bogey seven at the 388-yard first.