Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey lead the Irish challenge at Fota Island

Graeme McDowell watches his tee shot
Graeme McDowell watches his tee shot

Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey led the Irish challenge after day one of the Irish Open at Fota Island.

The Ulster duo trail leader Mikko Ilonen by four shots after compiling rounds that burst into life after the turn. McDowell, who battled the effects of jet-lag for most of the day, birdied three of his last four holes while Hoey birdied three of his last five.

“You know, my body is still catching up with me a tiny bit,” said McDowell.

“I will have a nice sleep tonight and hopefully I’ll feel a bit fresher in the morning. I feel like I’ll get stronger and stronger as the week goes on.

“Maybe I tried to do a little bit too much this week. I flew in Tuesday morning and played Hoylake, got here Tuesday night and had a few things going on.

“To be honest with you, we kept things as light as we possibly could Wednesday.

“But there’s always the little bit of added pressure here at the Irish Open and demands on your time.

“My body didn’t feel like my own today. I think Paul Casey was kind of saying the same thing.

“No excuses, though. Three days to recover is very doable, but I’m just not feeling 100 per cent. I didn’t play my best, but I knew that that was going to be the case, and today was just a case of hanging in there.

“It’s the same for everyone in the field coming from the U.S. Open.

“It’s not easy to come transatlantic and prepare yourself, but that’s what we have to do and just got to get on with it.”

Hoey also made a slow start to his round but felt that a long bogey putt at the par four eighth actually saved his round.

“I wasn’t at my best today but pro-golf is about getting it around and normally I don’t do that as well as I did today,” said the 35-year-old who rolled in a couple of long-range efforts during his round.

“I’d rather not play well and score well than hit the ball well and not putt well.

“Last year at Carton House I got off to a great start but fell away. Hopefully I can improve every day this year. It’s amazing, if you improve every day, you actually finish a lot higher than if you start well but level out a bit.”

Gareth Maybin made a solid start to his tournament carding a level par 71, but Simon Thornton was not impressed with his performance, signing for a one over par 72.

“It was a bit hit and miss, not great to be honest,” added the Newcastle based professional.

“Didn’t putt well, didn’t do anything well. I scraped it around but I will be back tomorrow to give it another go.”

Ballymena amateur Dermot McElroy carded a two over par 73 even though he was penalised two shots for playing a wrong ball at the first, his 10th.