Kevin Phelan’s short game responded magically in Munich as he had just 23 putts as well as two eagles inn opening 68 in the BMW International Open.
Needing a good week as he bids to regain his card, the Mount Juliet touring professional ended the day tied for 10th at Golfclub München Eichenried, three strokes behind Spain’s Rafa Cabrera Bello, Englishman Daniel Gaunt and Denmark’s Lasse Jensen.
Starting on the back nine, Phelan bogeyd the 14th but birdied the 16th and eagled the par-five 18th before a birdie at the first and an eagle two at the 331-yard fifth got him to five under.
He hit 11 fairways but missed nine greens. But while he got up and down seven times for par, the couldn’t avoid a bogey at the ninth.
It was a decent day all round for the Irish though US Open hero Shane Lowry might have hoped for better than a morning 72 that saw him slip to two over through seven holes before righting the ship.
Lowry is bringing up the rear in the Irish stakes with 69s for Damien McGrane and Michael Hoey leaving them tied 21st.
Darren Clarke made an eagle at the 447-yard third and birdied the 11th to get to three under but was forced to sign for a 70 as he three birdies with two double bogeys in his last five holes.
Cabrera Bello, a two-time winner on The European Tour, lost in a play-off to Fabrizio Zanotti in Cologne 12 months ago and also finished third in 2010 at Golfclub München Eichenried, venue for this year’s tournament.
But he moved into contention once again courtesy of a flawless five under par back nine of 31, extending his recent run of fine form, having recorded two top five finishes in his last three appearances, including second place in the Lyoness Open presented by Greenfinity two weeks ago.
He is joined at the top of the leaderboard by Jensen, who recorded the lowest round of his European Tour career, posting seven birdies in a ten-hole stretch in his bogey-free round, while Gaunt, who is also chasing a maiden European Tour title, sank a 25ft birdie putt on the last to make it a three-way tie.
One shot back is Englishman Andrew Johnston, who closed with three consecutive birdies - almost chipping in for eagle on the last - for a six under par round of 66.
Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, who at World Number Seven is the leading ranked player in the field, is two shots off the pace after an eventful round of 67 which included a triple bogey seven on the 16th hole, followed by four consecutive birdies on his back nine, having starting from the tenth tee.
Stenson’s playing partner Martin Kaymer, who is looking to win on home soil for a second time, opened with a level par round of 72 and is seven shots back.
“I’ve also played good on this course before,” Cabrera Bello said. "In 2010 I finished third and I've had other decent performances here, as well. I also missed the cut a few times, but it's still a course that I like.
“BMW does a fantastic job every year. The set-up and the atmosphere on this tournament is very, very special. It's only Thursday, and it felt like a weekend almost with really big crowds out there. It's nice, and it helps you get in the zone and it worked for me today.”
Stenson was please with his 67 despite firing his approach to the 18th in the grandstand.
“There were a lot of things going on there,” the Swede said. "I got off to a pretty good start, birdied 11 and 12. I didn't do too much wrong on 16 and wounded up with triple, so that was kind of interesting.
“But I guess the patient practice at the U.S. Open was paying off. So I was still hanging in there, mentality. I tried to just keep on going, birdied 18 and 1 at the turn and got it back to red figures and wrapped up with a nice string of birdies on five, six, seven and eight.
“I was in a good position to finish with five in a row, but I think the wind switched a little bit and I was kind in between clubs and went with the longer club and ended up way in the grandstand. I had a chance to make birdie anyway, and I would take five I guess, after being up in the chalets.”
Complete first round scores from the BMW International Open (par 72)
65 D Gaunt (Eng), L Jensen (Den), R Cabrera-Bello (Esp),
66 A Johnston (Eng),
67 J Morrison (Eng), K Aphibarnrat (Tha), T Fleetwood (Eng), H Stenson (Swe), V Riu (Fra),
68 Kevin Phelan (Irl), J Quesne (Fra), E Molinari (Ita), R Goosen (RSA), F Fritsch (Ger), T Van Der Walt (RSA), T Jaidee (Tha), M Schneider (Ger), A Hortal (Esp), P Lawrie (Sco), J Lagergren (Swe),
69 J Carlsson (Swe), A Hansen (Den), Michael Hoey (Nir), O Farr (Wal), E Pepperell (Eng), G Mulroy (RSA), E Espana (Fra), D Howell (Eng), C Del Moral (Esp), J Campillo (Esp), P Hanson (Swe), M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra), A Pavan (Ita), Damien McGrane (Irl), C Paisley (Eng), B Dredge (Wal), T Fisher Jnr (RSA),
70 R Santos (Por), G Stal (Fra), Darren Clarke (Nir), M Carlsson (Swe), A Cañizares (Esp), R Karlberg (Swe), C Lloyd (Eng), D Horsey (Eng), P Larrazábal (Esp), J Van Zyl (RSA), M Ford (Eng), A Kirstein (Ger), A Wall (Eng), P Maddy (Eng), P Oriol (Esp), P Lawrie (Irl), N Fasth (Swe),
71 M Nixon (Eng), M Korhonen (Fin), L Bjerregaard (Den), B Ritthammer (Ger), C Lee (Sco), T Hatton (Eng), G Green (Mas), M Crespi (Ita), H Otto (RSA), J Singh (Ind), M Madsen (Den), R Fisher (Eng), N Colsaerts (Bel), A Velasco (Esp), M Siem (Ger), C Doak (Sco), T Olesen (Den), G Havret (Fra), R Kakko (Fin), F Zanotti (Par), B Wiesberger (Aut), T Bjørn (Den), S Wakefield (Eng), S Benson (Eng), I Garrido (Esp), O Fisher (Eng), D Drysdale (Sco), J Roos (RSA), K Broberg (Swe),
72 S Kapur (Ind), M Kaymer (Ger), Shane Lowry (Irl), J Luiten (Ned), S Henry (Sco), R Jacquelin (Fra), J Edfors (Swe), M Kieffer (Ger), D Brooks (Eng), V Dubuisson (Fra), B Hebert (Fra), R Dinwiddie (Eng), W Ormsby (Aus), R Bland (Eng), D Woltman (USA),
73 E De La Riva (Esp), T Levet (Fra), S Jamieson (Sco), J Scrivener (Aus), M Lampert (Ger), S Kjeldsen (Den), R McEvoy (Eng), P Edberg (Swe), B Virto Astudillo (Esp), C Wood (Eng), C Villegas (Col), T Lewis (Eng), A Dodt (Aus), J Hahn (USA),
74 A Tadini (Ita), N Dougherty (Eng), M Lundberg (Swe), D Fichardt (RSA), J Parry (Eng), F Aguilar (Chi), D Foos (Ger), L Slattery (Eng), M Tullo (Chi), C Bouniol (Fra), A Quiros (Esp),
75 J Kruger (RSA), G Bourdy (Fra), D Lipsky (USA), J Lando Casanova (Fra), M Fitzpatrick (Eng), R Echenique (Arg), A Otaegui (Esp), S Jäger (Ger), S Hutsby (Eng), M Manassero (Ita), S Hend (Aus), T Murray (Eng), J Kunzenbacher (Ger), R Gonzalez (Arg), M Bremner (RSA), M Rottluff (am) (Ger),
76 S Hansen (Den), M Foster (Eng), R Green (Aus), O Wilson (Eng), J Barnes (Eng), J Walters (RSA), Y Paul (am) (Ger),
77 P Mejow (Ger), G Storm (Eng), Y Yang (Kor),
79 R Finch (Eng), R Karlsson (Swe), J Garcia Pinto (Esp),
80 T Pieters (Bel),
81 J Jeong (Kor), B Evans (Eng), J Palmer (Eng)