The temperatures were high as were the spirits of a bumper crowd at the K club yesterday on the opening day of the Horizon Irish Open.
Shubhankar Sharma produced a brilliant burst of scoring around the turn as he fired a flawless 65 to reach seven under par and open up a one-shot lead.
The 27-year-old carded an eagle and five birdies as well as pulling off a series of impressive par saves in the warmer afternoon sessions.
His hole-out eagle on the 18th (his ninth hole having started on the 10th) was one of many highlights.
“I made a lot of putts on the back nine, which was my front nine, and the round kind of got even better when I made that third shot at the 18th. I holed out from 105 yards. That got me to five under, and the homeward nine was solid again.”
The morning session was popular with the crowds as Shane Lowry came through in a solid four under par to be the best of the Irish, followed directly on the course by the marquee group of Rory McIlroy, Billy Horschel and reigning champion Adrian Meronk.
“No matter where we play the Irish Open, the crowds always come out,” said McIlroy.
“It’s a pleasure to play in front of them because they are very knowledgeable and they are very enthusiastic. I feel like they live and die every shot with you, whether you hole a putt or miss a putt but it’s great to have that support out there for sure.”
Billy Horschel, a seven time PGA Tour winner is one of the star attractions at the tournament and he popped into the Dubai Duty Free entertaining facility for a chat with fellow guests including Paul McGinley.
The Village adjacent to the 18th green has bars and a merchandise shop as well as a host of activities from hurling, baseball and american football tryouts, to multiple putting and striking challenges, the chance to be photographed with the trophy and an opportunity to win prizes of every shape and description.
Among a number of fundraising activities this week, the Birdies for Wishes campaign returned with a bang on day one. With every birdie at the 18th during tournament play resulting in a €150 donation from title sponsors Horizon Therapeutics and €300 being donated for every eagle, €9,450 was raised on Thursday.
There are a variety of traffic adjustments around Straffan but access was easy and helped by the operation of a comprehensive park and ride facility.
Tickets are sold out for Saturday and Sunday’s action, a reminder of the important part that the Irish Open plays on the DP World Tour.
The Horizon Irish Open will move to Royal County Down in 2024 before returning to the K Club twice more in 2025 and 2027 as part of current contracts.
Other partners of the event include The K Club, Sport Ireland and Make A Wish; DP World, Dubai Duty Free Emirates, Five 9 and Rolex; BMW and Heineken; Ballygowan, Enterprise, Nature Valley and Waterford Crystal.