Lucas Herbert leads the Irish Open at Mount Juliet, with Rory McIlroy eight strokes down.


Australian Lucas Herbert has a one-shot lead after the first round of the Irish Open while Rory McIlroy is eight shots adrift at Mount Juliet.

World number 100 Herbert, 25, posted nine birdies and a solitary bogey in his eight-under-par 64, with American Johannes Veerman second on seven under.

Scotsman Grant Forrest is six under and England’s Tommy Fleetwood five under.

McIlroy made three bogeys and a birdie in his front nine but picked up two shots on his back nine.

Ireland’s Shane Lowry, two weeks out from his long-awaited defence of the Open Championship, is two under.

Starting from the 10th, Lowry registered a bogey at the 13th but the Offaly man bounced back with birdies at the 15th, 17th and second.

Another dropped shot at the fifth followed but a birdie on the seventh saw him end the day six off the lead as he bids for a second Irish Open triumph but his first as a professional.

Playing alongside McIlroy, five-time European Tour winner Fleetwood recovered from a bogey five at the first to record six birdies.

A packed leaderboard has 15 players tied for fourth position on five under, including two-time major winner Martin Kaymer as well as Fleetwood, Andy Sullivan, Nicolas Colsaerts and Andrew Johnston.

Colm Moriarty is the leading Irish contender on four under, with Lowry next best placed of the home contingent at the Kilkenny venue which is hosting a limited number of spectators.

Graeme McDowell has work to do to make the cut on Friday as he lies two over, two shots better off than Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington and Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell, who struggled to opening 76s.

Leader Herbert is aiming to secure his second European Tour title, having won the Dubai Desert Classic in January 2020.

“It was a bit of a slow start, even over the first eight holes, and then I made a really long putt on 18 for birdie and that kind of sparked things and got things going and I was able to play really nice for that last nine holes,” said Herbert.

“I felt like I was only trying to get to maybe five or six under, I didn’t want to attack really hard. It was just about trying to hit the ball in the right spots, give yourself some looks on the greens and a few more rolled in and I got to eight (under).

“The greens were unbelievable. I can’t remember putting on greens that nice. It was definitely good to get out early and take advantage.”

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy won the Irish Open at The K Club in 2016

World number 10 McIlroy is making his first appearance at the tournament for three years and will also compete in next week’s Scottish Open in preparation for his challenge at the Open Championship at Royal St George’s.

“I didn’t start well but got back to even, then three-putted six, missed the green with a wedge on seven, bogeyed eight and from there it was about getting home with something respectable,” said McIlroy, who lies in a tie for 89th position.

“I made a couple of birdies on the back nine but missed a few chances as well. It was just one of those days, nothing really happened.”

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