India’s Sharma leads Irish Open after round one


Shubhankar Sharma’s seven-under par 65 took the Indian to the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the Irish Open, as Rory McIlroy carded a 69 on his return from a back injury.

Sharma finished birdie-birdie-eagle to take a one-shot lead from a five-strong pack that includes Ryder Cup vice-captain Thomas Bjorn.

McIlroy almost pulled out of the Tour Championship last month due to the back problem, which has limited his practice time.

The Northern Irishman was just under one for his round after 16 holes, but a birdie-birdie finish kept him in contention just four shots back.

“I think the two birdies in the last two holes sort of glossed over what was a pretty average day,” said the world number two.

“It’s hard to say I’m rusty when I’ve only had a week off but I just haven’t had a chance to practice much and I just hit a few loose shots out there.”

Defending champion Adrian Meronk, who expressed his shock and anger to be overlooked for a Ryder Cup wild card, also carded a 69 as he played alongside McIlroy.

Shane Lowry’s selection ahead of Meronk was criticised due to the Irishman’s poor form of late.

But he shot four-under for the day back on home soil and is hoping local support can cheer him on to a first victory in a year.

“Take away everything else that’s in the next few weeks, this is a big week for me, ” Lowry said. “I want to go out there and play well and give myself a chance to win this tournament.

“It’s only 45 minutes to an hour from where I’m from in Clara. I want the people to be getting on their buses on Sunday morning to come and watch me try and win this tournament.”

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