Grinder McGrane hangs tough in Qatar
Oliver Fisher. Picture © Getty Images

Oliver Fisher. Picture © Getty Images

A niggling wrist injury proved to be no deterrent as Damien McGrane birdied two of his last three holes to open with a four under 68 in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.

The dogged Kells man, 43, produced one of his trademark, professional performances to end the day just three strokes behinder leader Oliver Fisher in Doha.

"Conditions were nice so I just picked them off slowly but surely and finished with a birdie on the last, which is always nice," said McGrane, who birdied the second and bogeyed the fifth before picking up four strokes over the last 10 holes for a share of 14th place.

Speaking to European Tour Radio's Nick Dye, McGrane explained: "I've had a slight wrist problem since last week so I actually didn't do any practice. I didn't hit any balls and only did some chipping and a little bit of putting.

"I damanged (wrist) over the course of the winter at home and it swelled up in the heat over here and I've had some physio. It doesn't affect me on the course so I have been lucky. 

"I was just pulling caddie carts out playing golf with my friends and doing stupid things. And all of a sudden, in the cold weather at home, you pull or strain something and don't realise it's strained and then come out here and work and push yourself just a little bit and these things just appear.

"But it's always the same at the start of the year. It is so easy to get aches and pains but anyway, I am alive. It doesn't matter."

A top 10 finish would help McGrane break through the €5 million barrier in career earnings on the European Tour but he will be hoping for what would be just his second win, seven years after his breakthrough in China.

He's three strokes behind Fisher, who had eight birdies in a 65 to lead by one shot from Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who finished in a tie for third place behind his compatriot Sergio Garcia 12 months ago.

Peter Lawrie, who is trying to win back his card, also birdied the 16 and 18th to take advantage of a sponsor's invitation and opened with a two under 70 worth a share of 35th spot.

And it was also a positive day for Michael Hoey, who bogeyed the third and double bogeyed the ninth to be three over after nine but came home in an immaculate 32 to post a one under 71.

Hoey missed just four greens as he followed a birdie four at the 11th with a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th to sit just inside the cut mark in joint 55th.

Cabrera-Bello kept the bogeys off his card in a superb round of 66, whilst the group on five under par includes two-time champion Paul Lawrie and South African Ernie Els, who is seeking his fifth victory in the Middle East.

Defending champion Garcia birdied the final hole to sign for a round of 69, whilst World Number Five Justin Rose (playing his 250th European Tour event) went one shot lower.

Fisher said: “I lost my card a couple years ago but then played well last season and qualified for the final in Dubai, so I’m improving and things are definitely moving in the right direction. My consistency is getting better all the time, it’s just a matter of sticking to the things that have served me well.

“I played nicely last week, especially on Saturday. But I hardly made a putt and only shot two under that day, so I knew that my long game was in good shape. Fortunately today I had the putter going as well.”

As for Els, he's looking to regain some confidence on the greens.

“For such a long time, I’ve been quite a grumpy guy," Els said. "I’m actually not a grumpy guy, I’m quite a happy guy but when you’re not making putts, you can’t help being grumpy. You can’t play the game if you’re not making any putts.

“Today I didn’t hit it that well with my irons, but I got the ball in the hole. I’m not feeling so tense and afraid of those short putts any more, which means I can play golf again.”

First round scores

65 O Fisher (Eng),

66 R Cabrera-Bello (Esp),

67 P Lawrie (Sco), E Els (RSA), M Foster (Eng), B Grace (RSA), M Lampert (Ger), A Cañizares (Esp), E Grillo (Arg), A Noren (Swe), B An (Kor), D Fichardt (RSA), K Broberg (Swe),

68 S Gallacher (Sco), G Coetzee (RSA), J Morrison (Eng), K Aphibarnrat (Tha), D McGrane (Irl), J Rose (Eng), S Jamieson (Sco), M Fitzpatrick (Eng),

69 T Aiken (RSA), S Garcia (Esp), E Pepperell (Eng), B Wiesberger (Aut), B Rumford (Aus), M Tullo (Chi), C Schwartzel (RSA), T Jaidee (Tha), R Gonzalez (Arg), R Paratore (Ita), A Johnston (Eng), T Olesen (Den), P Uihlein (USA),

70 P Lawrie (Irl), R Karlsson (Swe), G Havret (Fra), J Singh (Ind), N Colsaerts (Bel), P Waring (Eng), E Espana (Fra), S Benson (Eng), R Fisher (Eng), G Bourdy (Fra), R Green (Aus), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), A Quiros (Esp), M Baldwin (Eng), D Drysdale (Sco), M Ford (Eng), S Kapur (Ind), E De La Riva (Esp), H Stenson (Swe), J Quesne (Fra),

71 F Zanotti (Par), A Sullivan (Eng), O Wilson (Eng), P Larrazábal (Esp), J Kruger (RSA), E Molinari (Ita), D Foos (Ger), A Levy (Fra), A Hansen (Den), M Carlsson (Swe), C Doak (Sco), S Khan (Eng), F Aguilar (Chi), M Kieffer (Ger), R Finch (Eng), M Hoey (Nir), M Warren (Sco),

72 T Lewis (Eng), D Van Der Walt (RSA), J Lando Casanova (Fra), G Mulroy (RSA), R Rock (Eng), B Hebert (Fra), J Barnes (Eng), J Campillo (Esp), M Ilonen (Fin), M Nixon (Eng), G Stal (Fra),

73 J Garcia Pinto (Esp), T Fleetwood (Eng), S Hutsby (Eng), T Pieters (Bel), M Korhonen (Fin), R Ramsay (Sco), S Kjeldsen (Den), J Olazábal (Esp), D Howell (Eng), A Otaegui (Esp), R Jacquelin (Fra), Y Yang (Kor),

74 S Hend (Aus), N Fasth (Swe), B Dredge (Wal), J Carlsson (Swe), M Siem (Ger), R Bland (Eng), W Ormsby (Aus), S Dyson (Eng), D Brooks (Eng), J Parry (Eng),

75 A Wall (Eng), C Lee (Sco), S Hansen (Den), R Wattel (Fra), L Bjerregaard (Den), J Roos (RSA), T Hatton (Eng), D Lipsky (USA),

76 M Crespi (Ita), M Manassero (Ita), O Farr (Wal), S Webster (Eng), G Storm (Eng), M Madsen (Den), J Palmer (Eng), M Fraser (Aus), T Tree (Eng), A Murdaca (am) (Aus),

77 J Hrinda (am) (Svk),

78 J Jeong (Kor),

79 A Al Kaabi (am) (Qat),

85 A Al-Shahrani (am) (Qat)