Wrong ball woe for McElroy

Dermot McElroy in action in the first round of the Irish Open at Fota Island

Ballymena amateur Dermot McElroy opened with a two over 73 but his round could have been sensational had he not played the wrong ball on his 10th hole in Irish Open at Fota Island.

The 21-year old and his playing partner Chris Doak of Scotland played each other’s balls on the first hole because they were of similar make and markings and were handed two-shot penalties.

But while Doak, who hit first from the fairway, eventually holing a 20 footer for a brilliant bogey five and a 69, McElroy ended up with a triple bogey seven.

McElroy said: “He hit my ball first. But we didn't realise until we got to the green and I told him I thought I’d played his ball. It’s really frustrating because I made three birdies in the last seven holes to shoot two over.

“I could have holed a few more putts but take the triple bogey off the card and it’s one under par round. Apart from the triple, I was really happy with how I played.”

Doak wasn't best pleased either despite firing a 69. It was the second time in his career that he’d been penalised for playing the wrong ball. 

Siem is Daddy Cool

Marcel Siem stormed home in an incredible six under 29 to fire a 66 that left him just two shots adrift of pace-setter Mikko Ilonen.

But the only place the German really wants to be is back home in Ratingen, where his wife Laura is expecting the couple’s second child before next week’s BMW International in Munich.

"I feel sorry for her because she can't be with me at the moment,” Siem said.  “You know, in the summertime, being pregnant is not that nice I reckon.

“On Monday, we're going to get the baby, we know that, and I'm really looking forward to that. It’s going to be a special week for me, home tournament, the second baby. Got the shivers already, it's really cool.”

Phelan's rough warning

They weren’t joking when they said that the first cut is the deepest.

Just ask Waterford Castle’s Kevin Phelan, who was happy to card a level par 71 after hitting just seven of the 13 fairways.

“I played alright and started off quite well,” Phelan said. “I was two under on the front nine and playing steady enough and then hit one bad shot on the par three into the water and took a double there.

“Other than that I played quite well and had plenty of chances. But I hit a couple of drives in the rough so it was tough to get close to the pins.

“The first cut is almost tougher that the main rough because the ball sits right down at the bottom. So it’s definitely rewarding if you can hit the fairway here.” 

Padraig the politician

Pádraig Harrington is so popular in Cork, he’s better known as Paddy Harrington’s son.

The late GAA legend, a native of Castletownbere,  is still fondly remembered for his role in the Cork teams that reached two All-Ireland football finals but lost to Galway in 1956 and then to little Louth in 1957.

“I get tremendous support down here,” Harrington said. “My heritage comes from Cork. I spent my summer holidays in Cork.”

When it was suggested by a wag in the media that he was so popular in Munster that he could stand for election in Cork, Harrington beamed from ear to ear.

“As a politician, it depends where I’m standing, where I’m standing,” he said with a huge grin.

Darren Clarke's weight loss

Darren Clarke might have lost nearly three stones this past winter but if the 2011 Open champion doesn’t start playing well soon he’ll be back to his familiar shape before long.

The former world number eight, a two-time World Golf Championship winner, is utterly frustrated by his fall to 359th in the world and the state of his scoring game.

Winless since he captured the Claret Jug at Sandwich three years ago, the 45-year old transformed himself physically over the winter and kept the weight off.

“Yes, I have done well to keep the weight off,” Clarke said. but if the ball continues to resist going in the hole, I will really enjoy putting all the weight I have lost back on again.”

Praise for scholar Gary

Paddy Harrington Scholarship star Gary Hurley was thrilled with his Irish Open debut in front of a big West Waterford support.

The 21-year old briefly led the tournament on two under when he eagled the par-five fourth en route to a one over 72 — the only eagle recorded all day.

The first product of the NUI Maynooth scholarship programme named after Pádraig Harrington’s late father drew special praise from the three-time major winner after a round that saw him hit a 254-yard, three-wood corker to the fourth and hole the putt.

Harrington said: “It’s fantastic to see Gary out here this week, and playing so well. It’s great for him personally and also great for Irish golf in general that there is another path the young amateurs can take, rather than having to go over to college in the States. 

“You can get yourself a good education over here, without the need to relocate to the other side of the world.

“There are great facilities at the GUI centre and the environment is a very healthy one, so the guys are given every opportunity to progress in the game. It’s up to them to make the most of their opportunity – Gary is certainly doing that.” 

Snow joke for Mikko

Flying Finn Mikko Illonen opened with a super 64 but he knows wining in Ireland in snow joke.

In 1999 he beat Rory Leonard in the final of the West of Ireland at Enniscrone when the weather was of the Finnish variety.

Illonen said: “We teed off early in the morning and by the time we got to the green, we couldn't see the balls because it was snowing. We don't play golf in the winter; you do.”