Lawrie leads Irish challenge in Morocco

PETER Lawrie leads the Irish challenge after round one of the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco.

Lawrie is one of a six strong group trailing leader Nick Dougherty by a single shot after carding a six under par round of 66 that included an eagle on the 519 yard par five second hole.

The 35-year-old from Dublin has played only five events on the European Tour this season but has already racked up two top 10’s in Qatar and Malaysia.

The former Rookie of the Year broke his driver on the eve of the event but calmly plotted his way around the easier Blue course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam.

“The head of the driver came loose during practice. I have a spare, but I’m just not 100 per cent confident with it,” said the 2008 Spanish Open winner.

“The three-wood’s going well, but the Red is long and the driver will have to come out somewhere.”

Lawrie is partnering his father-in-law in the pro-am format and added: “That’s the most nervous I’ve been. I had to up my game to make sure I did okay and we did okay.”

Darren Clarke is four shots behind Dougherty in a share of 20th after his opening round of 69 which included seven birdies.

Clarke struggled with the par threes yesterday, dropping shots at three of the four ‘short holes’ on the course.

Ballyclare’s Gareth Maybin carded a one under par round of 72 at the ‘harder’ red course yesterday (the field is spread out over two courses, red and blue, for the opening two days of the event).

Shane Lowry, also playing the red course, carded a one over par round of 74  while Damien McGrane was a shot further back with a 75.

Paul McGinley, returning from a long lay off after knee surgery, finished the day with a 76 but Belfast’s Michael Hoey had a day to forget, signing for a seven over par 80 that left him joint last.

Hoey had high hopes on his return from a five week competitive break.

Back in 2008 he won a Challenge Tour event held in the country, but he was out of sorts yesterday and needs to do something remarkable today to make the cut.

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