Antrim, Northern Ireland – Jeev Milkha Singh and Gregory Bourdy both fired rounds of 7-under 65 on Thursday to share the first-round lead of the Irish Open.
Mark Foster, Matthew Zions, Andrew Marshall, Oscar Floren, Mikko Ilonen and Edouard Dubois are knotted in third place at 6-under 66 at Royal Portrush, the famed links layout hosting this event for the first time since 1947.
This is the first time since 1953 that this tournament was staged in Northern Ireland.
It seems fitting to be at Royal Portrush with the run of recent major winners from Northern Ireland.
Rory McIlroy, the world No. 2, bogeyed two of his last three for a 2-under 70.
"As the day went on the greens got a bit slower and coming from the greens I've been putting on (in the States) it's a big change," said McIlroy, who has missed the cut in four of his last five starts worldwide.
Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open winner and runner-up two weeks ago at Olympic Club, had a 1-under 71.
Reigning British Open champion Darren Clarke returned from a groin injury this week and also shot a 1-under 71.
A 95-minute weather delay on Thursday set the tournament back, but everyone finished the first round.
Singh was in the early wave and completed his round before the horn sounded.
He started beautifully with three birdies in his first four holes. After pars at Nos. 5 and 7, Singh tallied birdies at the other three front-nine holes to make the turn at 6-under 30.
Singh continued the spectacular form with a birdie at the 10th. He was alone in the lead at 7-under par, but three straight pars preceded a bogey at the par-3 14th.
Singh fell into a logjam for first, but a birdie at the last got him a piece of the lead at minus-7.
"I love links golf, you have to hit a lot of low shots and you have to have a lot of imagination," said Singh, a three-time European Tour champion. "I think a lot of feel and imagination is required, and that's what I love about links golf. The atmosphere and the feel to the golf course is just fantastic. It looks and feels just great."
Bourdy was in the afternoon wave Thursday and began on the 10th tee. Like Singh, Bourdy recorded three birdies in his first four holes, but added only one more birdie on his opening nine, a three at the par-4 last.
The Frenchman birdied the second, fourth and sixth holes to join Singh atop the leaderboard.
"Possibly one of my best rounds on the European Tour," Bourdy said on Thursday.
Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington, defending champion Simon Dyson, Match Play champion Nicolas Colsaerts, Keith Horne, Thongchai Jaidee, Anthony Wall, Alejandro Canizares, Peter Whiteford, Michael Jonzon and Warren Abery are tied for ninth at 5-under 67.
NOTES: McIlroy was followed on Thursday by girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki, who lost in the first round of Wimbledon...James Morrison, who won the British Open qualifier at Sunningdale on Monday, aced the 14th hole on Thursday and won a BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe. He shot a 4-under 68 in round one...Reigning PGA Champion Keegan Bradley struggled to a 1-over 73...The Irish Open is sold out for all four rounds, a first for a regular European Tour event.