Stuart Grehan is just four shots off the pace after the opening 72 in the Patriot All-America Invitational in Arizona.
As Faithlegg’s Robin Dawson opened with a disappointing, 10 over 81 to share 70th, reigning East and South of Ireland champion Grehan posted a one over par round to trail Italy’s Federico Zucchetto by just four strokes at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park.
Last year’s runner-up George Cunningham and Adam Wood sit on stroke back after two-under 69s with Maynooth University’s Grehan tied for ninth.
“I played solid golf today,” Grehan said. “The course was setup was tough and I needed to respect some pins. I started off the 10th tee and got off to a nice start.
“I was two under after five and stayed that way until 18 where I three-putted from the back edge for bogey to be out in one under.
“I played nicely on the front nine also but made a poor swing on the fifth tee where I pulled a drive into the wasteland and had to chip out and didn’t salvage a par.
“Then had a poor three-putt for bogey on the par-three sixth and I had chances on seventh and eighth from close range but narrowly missed.
“My game is in good shape and I plan on staying focused and working on the speed of the greens and see where I stand at the end of the week.”
The Wigwam Gold Course s a tough test according to Maynooth University’s Barry Fennelly.
“It’s a long track and the greens are very difficult — quite undulating and are running firm and fast. It is difficult to get close to the pins even with wedge a hand,” Fennell reported. “There is a premium on accuracy with approach shots so as to leave a uphill or relatively flat putt.
“Tom Lehman was recently brought in to make some changes to improve the course for the tournament. He removed and reworked some fairway and greenside bunkers and has brought the rough more into play.”
It certainly proved testing for many with Maynooth University talent Dawson one of the victims on day one.
“I played some good and bad golf out there today but it was certainly not the start of the tournament I was hoping for,” the Waterford man explained.
“I was punished badly early on for some average shots and from five over after four holes, it was always going to be tough to claw it back.
“From holes 5-15 I played solid golf shooting one over but had a poor finish, bogey, bogey and a double bogey on 18.
“I had sloppy bogeys at 16th, a short par-three, and on 17th where I three putted from 20ft. On the 18th, i got unlucky with my approach which jumped from the hazard out of bounds.
“The speed of the greens is something I’m not too used to but my game is good so Im hoping I can put some good scores together in last two rounds.”