Ireland conquer windy Sotogrande to lead European Nations Cup
The 12th at  La Reserva

The 12th at  La Reserva

Ireland defied winds gusting well over 25 mph to lead in the clubhouse after the opening round of the European Nations Cup in Spain.

As Spain's women hit the front in the women's championship, Ireland's men top the leaderboard by four shots from England and by five from France with six groups still to compete their opening rounds. [Completed scores on Thurs am, PDF]

Their failure to finish was due to the slow pace of play caused by high winds, fast greens and challenging pin positions at Sotogrande's La Reserva course.

While Spain's Mario Galiano shot a super, two over 74, Jack Hume and Gavin Moynihan are nipping at his heels after excellent, three over 75s with Gary Hurley shooting 78 and Colm Campbell a battling 79.

Hume was first to play and made a lovely start with an opening birdie. His only blemish on the first nine was a double on the fifth, where his three-wood second shot found the hazard to the right of the green.

He birdied the 11th to get back to level but had a bad run of bogey, bogey and double bogey at the 12th, 13th and 14th before hitting a six-iron to 25 feet at the par-three 16th and converting for birdie.

Moynihan made a birdie-par-birdie start but three-putted the sixth and seventh and bogeyed the ninth to turn in one over.

He dropped further shots at the 12th and 13th before a six-iron to 20 feet at the 14th set up a birdie that got him back to two over.

He decided to take on the green at the par-five 15th, hit a poor shot into the water, but got up and down from 80 yards for a trademark par.

He found water again at the 17th with his second but again holed for bogey before hitting a great approach to the 18th only to miss from nine feet for birdie.

Hurley got off to a quiet start with three pars before making an outrageous par at the third. Having blocked his drive right and clipped a tree with his second, he airmailed the green from 100 yards, leaving himself an impossible pitch from a downslope to a tight pin that ran away from him.

He executed an incredible flop-shot with a mud ball that disappeared into the hole at dead weight for an unbelievable par four. He birdied the fourth but dropped shots at the fifth, 9th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th for a 78 that will have irritated him given his start.

Campbell was among the later starters and took six hours and five minutes to get around, completing his round as the hooter sounded to suspend play for the day.

After a bright bogey, birdie, par, par start, he dropped seven shots over the next five holes — double, bogey, triple, par, bogey — to turn in seven over.

To his credit, he never gave up. After a birdie at the 12th, he bogeyed the 13th and 16th but made a wonderful birdie at the treacherous 17th, holing from 30 feet after an approach with a rescue, only to miss from six feet for birdie at the 18th.

His 79 was the discarded score as Ireland posted a 12 over team score to lead from England (+16) and France (+ 17).

Galiano leads the individual on 74 from Moynihan and Hurley (75) with European champion Ashley Chesters on 76 and Paul Howard on 77.