"If you haven’t earned it or played your way in, your game isn’t good enough"

Shane Lowry misses the birdie at the last in the  BMW International Open at Gut Lärchenhof. Picture: David Lloyd / www.golffile.ie

Michael Hoey said it best last week when asked why he wasn't entering Final Qualifying for The Open at Hoylake.

"Not to be negative about it but, unfortunately, if you haven’t earned it or played your way in, your game isn’t good enough," he said at Fota Island.

An opening six under 66 in the BMW International Open in Germany gives Hoey a chance of making it through the Race to Dubai standings if he is one of five not already qualified in the Top 20 on Sunday night.

It will take a win or a second place finish to pull it off but Hoey is more than capable having shown in spades in recent years that when he gets a sniff of victory, he's more dangerous than most.

Shane Lowry has one eye on Hoylake too and may only need to make the cut in Cologne to secure his third Open appearance as he's 19th in the money list thanks that season-saving runner up finish to Rory McIlroy at Wentworth.

The Offaly man, who has still entered Final Qualifying, appears to be more sensitive than ever to the slings and arrows of tour misfortune these days, especially in the wake of back to back missed cuts by the minimum in the US Open and the Irish Open.

With Hoey tied for third, just two shots adrift of Danny Willett and Rafa Cabrera Bello at Gut Lärchenhof, Lowry is tied for 10th thanks to a five under 67 with Mount Juliet professional Kevin Phelan a shot further back after a bogey free 68.

Staying in the present rather than looking too far ahead might pay dividends for Lowry, whose season has been characterised by the kind of inconsistency that was once Hoey's calling card.

Eight missed cuts and one second place finish from 13 starts says it all, but Lowry was feeling good after his opening round and hoped his putter could get hot and give him a chance of challenging a third European Tour win.

"I really feel that five under was the worst I could have shot out there today so I'm delighted with the start because the last few weeks I've been getting off to ropey starts," Lowry said. "Hopefully I can keep going tomorrow.

"I drove the ball really well and was going in with a lot of mid and short irons. I didn't really hole much, mist of my birdies were gimmes. It was nice hopefully I can hole a few putts at the weekend.

"I feel like I'm driving the ball as well and my iron play is as good as it has ever been. So if I can just get the putter warm over the weekend, we will see what happens."

Phelan didn't drop a shot, scarambling impeccably when necessary for his 68 while Damien McGrane will be pleased with his tally of 28 putts as he shot 69.

Gareth Maybin was three under with two holes to go but bogeyed both for a 71 that leaves him on the cut line on one under with Paul McGinley putting well to salvage a level par 72.

Peter Lawrie will need to hit more fairways if he is to build on the Irish Open as he shot 73 while David Higgins (75), Simon Thornton (76) have to avoid the big numbers if they are to have any chance of making the weekend.

US Open champion Martin Kaymer's return to action following the second major victory of his career saw his home crowd turn out in force to see the 29 year old post a one under 71.

That left Kaymer in a tie for 66th place on a hugely congested leaderboard which also World No 2 Henrik Stenson at four under while World No 8 Sergio Garcia joined Kaymer on one under.

Kaymer said: “It was a tough day for me on the greens. It was very, very playable today. I think it was the best conditions you can get here, but I didn't make many putts, especially the last five holes, while was on the green, it was probably the worst I can do and unfortunately I couldn't make any putts coming in.

“There are so many people that come out and expect you to play well and they expect you to play at least as good as two weeks ago. That's the way Germans are. But you have to lower your expectations which is quite difficult. But, you know, it's nice to play here even though it's quite exhausting. There's a lot to do.”

Joint leader Willett, who occasionally speaks in the third person plural, said: “We haven't missed a cut all year. I had to pull out of two events with a bad back, but we are playing some good golf and working really hard on the greens and it's starting to pay off nicely because you can turn average rounds into great rounds quite quickly when you hole a few nice putts.

“It's always nice to come back to a place you have won. Hopefully there's many more to come on different courses around the world. You remember where you hit shots from and did certain things from. It's nice to come back. Today felt very easy. You kind of know your way around a bit more.”

As for Rafa Cabrera Bello, he said: “It's really, really a good way to start. I made four birdies on the front nine and three birdies on the back nine. What I enjoyed most about the round was that I played pretty steady and I didn't have like a really high dip or any lows or anything. I was just playing steady golf in the entire four and a half hours that we have been out there, so really, really pleased.”

First Round Scores:

64 D Willett (Eng), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp), 

66 G Storm (Eng), E Grillo (Arg), M Hoey (Nir), G Stal (Fra), A Sullivan (Eng), A Hansen (Den), A Quiros (Esp), 

67 N Elvira (Esp), S Walker (Eng), M Jiménez (Esp), B Grace (RSA), T Lewis (Eng), J Campillo (Esp), S Lowry (Irl), R Wattel (Fra), G Bhullar (Ind), 

68 K Phelan (Irl), S Kjeldsen (Den), D Im (USA), B Wiesberger (Aut), R Karlsson (Swe), M Ilonen (Fin), J Carlsson (Swe), J Dantorp (Swe), A Lahiri (Ind), H Stenson (Swe), A Cejka (Ger), R Gonzalez (Arg), M Baldwin (Eng), A Hartø (Den), C Del Moral (Esp),

69 P Larrazábal (Esp), M Nixon (Eng), M Schneider (Ger), N Colsaerts (Bel), C Lee (Sco), T Hatton (Eng), M Kieffer (Ger), D Howell (Eng), A Wall (Eng), S Dyson (Eng), M Korhonen (Fin), J Morrison (Eng), D McGrane (Irl),

70 J Knutzon (USA), A Cañizares (Esp), R Fisher (Eng), A Saddier (Fra), M Foster (Eng), T Björn (Den), T Fleetwood (Eng), J Daly (USA), T Aiken (RSA), N Fasth (Swe), M Madsen (Den), C Wood (Eng), J Hansen (Den), S Manley (Wal), A Levy (Fra), D Horsey (Eng), V Riu (Fra), M Siem (Ger), 

71 W Ormsby (Aus), E De La Riva (Esp), G Maybin (Nir), S Wakefield (Eng), J Walters (RSA), G Havret (Fra), A Gee (Eng), S Garcia (Esp), J Donaldson (Wal), M Kaymer (Ger), F Molinari (Ita), D Huizing (Ned), J Quesne (Fra), T Jaidee (Tha), R Ramsay (Sco), J Doherty (Sco), S Khan (Eng), J Singh (Ind), V Dubuisson (Fra), D Foos (am) (Ger),

72 B Paolini (USA), K Broberg (Swe), A Forsyth (Sco), R Bland (Eng), M Carlsson (Swe), T Pieters (Bel), E Molinari (Ita), P Lawrie (Sco), E Goya (Arg), C Doak (Sco), O Fisher (Eng), F Zanotti (Par), G Coetzee (RSA), J Kruger (RSA), P Waring (Eng), R Green (Aus), R Finch (Eng), A Kaleka (Fra), A Otaegui (Esp), F Aguilar (Chi), E Pepperell (Eng), J Lara (Esp), R Jacquelin (Fra), D Drysdale (Sco), P McGinley (Irl), T Levet (Fra),

73 B Rumford (Aus), F Calmels (Fra), R Rock (Eng), R Santos (Por), S Kapur (Ind), P Lawrie (Irl), M Lundberg (Swe), L Slattery (Eng), M Crespi (Ita), P Casey (Eng), J Lima (Por), C Arendell (USA), M Röhrig (am) (Ger),

74 S Hansen (Den), W Huang (Chn), D Lynn (Eng), A Knappe (Ger), P Hedblom (Swe), J Edfors (Swe), J Parry (Eng),

75 S Jamieson (Sco), M Warren (Sco), E Dubois (Fra), J Heath (Eng), M Kramer (Ger), D Higgins (Irl), J Jeong (Kor), M Glauert (Ger), R Kakko (Fin), D Fichardt (RSA), J McLeary (Sco), A Kirstein (Ger),

76 N Dougherty (Eng), A Pavan (Ita), T Olesen (Den), L Bjerregaard (Den), P Price (Wal), S Thornton (Irl), P Sjöland (Swe),

77 S Kim (Kor), D Brooks (Eng), J Olazábal (Esp),

79 M Grönberg (Swe),

80 P Uihlein (USA), P Whiteford (Sco),

83 F Andersson Hed (Swe)