Amateur starlet Paul Dunne trumped Ireland’s poker of aces to light up The Open at St Andrews.
The Greystones ace, 22, has grabbed the attention of fans this week because he looks like US superstar Jordan Spieth.
But he played the with aplomb of the reigning Masters and US Open champion too, carding a three under 69 to lead the Irish charge and leave Shane Lowry and major winners Padraig Harrington, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke playing catch up.
As Harrington and McDowell battled to level par 72s and Lowry racked up a nightmare eight at the 17th to post a 73 that Clarke matched, it fell the Wicklow wonder-kid to fly the flag.
Delighted to actually lead the Open thanks to birdies at the first and second and a 6.43am tee time, Dunne joked: “My first thought was, ‘Is anyone at home going to take a picture of it on the computer screen and send it to me later. It was only two holes, so many people were going to birdie the first two.
“But I went out with a number in my head, trying to shoot 68. I thought that would be a pretty good score out there but I'm pretty pleased with 69.
“And it was cool to see my name at the top of the leaderboard — it’s kind of a novelty thing for when I’m 70 years old, sitting in a bar, having a pint, maybe telling someone that I led The Open.”
Wearing a grey Under Armour cap similar to Spieth’s, the University of Alabama Birmingham graduate has been mistaken for the man chasing a hat-trick of Major wins this week
Now he wants to keep playing like the American in today’s tough weather and make sure he makes the cut and contends for the Silver Medal awarded to the leading amateur.
Confessing he’s been mistaken for Spieth “a little bit” Dunne said: “When I put my head down they just see the sign on the hat and I've had a few people ask me for autographs, and then they're disappointed when I bring my head up.”
They could be asking for his signature for real if he makes the cut today and goes on to win the top amateur prize.
After holing a 10 footer for birdie at the first and a five footer for another birdie at the second, he made a brilliant up and down for birdie at the long fifth and holed a monster, 90 footer for another at the ninth to turn in four under 32.
He dropped his only shot of the day at the par-three 11th but parred his way home with the highlight a super four at the 17th.
Planning to turn pro and keeping his fingers crossed for Walker Cup call up, his delight contrasted with Lowry’s agony.
The Clara ace hit his approach into the stream at the first and made bogey, duffed a pitch at the third and bogeyed the fifth to crash to two over before storming back.
Birdies at the seventh, ninth, 10th, 13th and 14th got him into the mix at three under.
But it all went wrong when he drove out of bounds into the Old Course Hotel at the 17th and made a quadruple bogey eight.
The Clara man was too upset to talk after missing a birdie chance at the last and signing for a 73.
But it was also a frustrating day for McDowell and Clarke and a grinding one for Harrington.
Two under after 11 holes, G-Mac struggled on the greens for his 72, confessing: "I think now I'm just lacking that little bit of confidence. There's nothing wrong with my technique.
“I've got a new putter in the bag for the last few weeks. I really felt like I putted well at the Scottish Open for no reward and it was a little bit the same today.”
Harrington was disappointed to miss early chances but happy to make a string of par putts coming home and post a 72 in the tougher conditions.
He said: “Shooting two or three under par would have been an excellent day out there this afternoon. Level par, it's tough when you seven under leading but that's the nature of the golf course.”
Ryder Cup skipper Clarke holed almost nothing and carded a 73, complaining: “I am holing nothing at all and whatever could go wrong, did go wrong.
“If you hit it in the bunker, that’s fair enough. But when they just go in and you have got to come out backwards, that is one of the nuances of the Old Course and I had to pay the penalty.
“My ball striking is good but the ball is conspiring to stay out of the hole some way or another.
"I felt as if I deserved better.”