New Zealand’s Ryan Fox admitted he was surprised to top the Irish Open leaderboard after the first round on Thursday.
Fox set the pace with eight birdies as he went round in 64 at Mount Juliet to establish a one-shot lead over Frederic Lacroix, Jorge Campillo, Fabrizio Zanotti and Marcel Schneider.
South Africa’s Thriston Lawrence was part of a six-strong group on six under, with Zander Lombard on five under and Oliver Bekker on four under.
Fox, who lost a playoff for the 2018 Irish Open to Scotland’s Russell Knox, won the Ras Al Khaimah Classic in February, finished runner-up in the Soudal Open and Dutch Open and was third in the BMW International on Sunday.
Despite that blistering form, the world No 56 was still shocked to take the lead at the Irish Open, with seven birdies in his last 11 holes moving him into pole position.
“I’m more surprised, to be honest, than anything else. I’ve been fighting it on the range the last couple of days and a 64 certainly didn’t look likely early in the round.” Fox said.
“I really like this course, even though it kicked my ass last year. I feel really comfortable with where my game’s at, which probably hasn’t happened for a few years out here now, and it’s obviously a recipe for success.
“I’ve gotten close a few times the last few weeks. It’d certainly be nice to get another one over the line.”
Three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington carded a two-under-par 70 just four days after his victory in the US Senior Open, while 2019 Open champion Shane Lowry had to settle for a 71.
© Agence France-Presse