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Ormsby and Fox lead Australasian Challenge at Irish Open

New Zealander Ryan Fox follows up his 4th place in France with a solid start (Photo: Bruce Young)
South Australian Wade Ormsby and New Zealander Ryan Fox head the Australasian challenge at the completion of round one of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open hosted by the Rory Foundation at Portstewart Golf Club in Northern Ireland.

The pair recorded rounds of 5-under 67 to be in a share of 9th position and just three shots from the leaders, American Daniel Im and Frenchman Benjamin Hebert.

Ormsby has missed four of his last five cuts but amongst that was the opening round leader in Germany two weeks ago and some improved form earlier in the year suggests his game is perhaps not far away.

Fox, on the other hand, produced his best European Tour finish when 4th at last week’s Open de France, earning his biggest cheque as a professional in the process and arrived in Northern Ireland - where he has previously won a European Challenge Tour event - with a great deal of confidence.   

Jason Scrivener and Sam Brazel are the next best of the ‘down under’ brigade, that pair producing rounds of 2 under par 70 but such was the low nature of the scoring that they are back in a share of 62nd place.

Andrew Dodt, Marcus Fraser and Scott Hend were round in 71, while Brett Rumford struggled to a round of 74.

32-year-old Im, who has played both the European and Challenge Tours over the last five years, is a Korean American who has hardly set the world on fire in his career to date and talked afterwards of his growing understanding and appreciation of links golf.

"I experienced links golf a little bit last year, playing St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie for the Dunhill Links and it was great,” he said.

“That's the only links experience I can think of right now – I’ve played Walton Heath for qualifying and stuff, so I'm getting there.”

Hebert is a multiple winner on the Challenge Tour over the years but has yet to break through at this level. After three consecutive missed cuts in his last three starts, this impressive beginning was hardly expected.

“The last round that I played wasn't very good, so it was a little surprising today," said Hebert.

“But I practiced a bit last week in France, and I found some keys with my coach.

"It worked quite well today, so I'm very happy. I holed some very important putts as well. I played very well. Only missed one green, no bogeys, so it’s all good. We've been a bit lucky I think also with the conditions, with less wind at the end. So it was just perfect today and we'll see tomorrow.”

The pair lead by one over tournament invite and World Number 11, Jon Rahm, and English duo Mathew Southgate and Oliver Fisher.

Rahm, one of the game’s most exciting young stars, missed the cut at the The Memorial and the US Open before a better week in France last week where he finished 10th. After his round, Rahm talked about his love of the course and the Spanish connection with the event.

“It's a beautiful golf course,” he said. “I was telling Rory, I think it's probably the most beautiful opening tee shot I've ever seen and out there with one of the most beautiful front nines I've ever seen. The back nine is also amazing. Each hole you can say, this is really special.

"I just love the feeling I get around here, and with the crowd that we had today, it's an unbeatable feeling. I just like that so much that I think I just kind of forced myself to play good with that attitude.

“I know Seve has won this tournament in the past. I think I've seen the images of him making the 40-footer on the last hole a thousand times. I know Sergio [Garcia] won this tournament his first start as a pro. There's some Spanish history and hopefully I can contribute to that.”

Tournament host Rory McIlroy could only manage a round of 74, although the event’s leading world ranked player, Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, fared much better with an opening 67.





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