Jordan Smith plays a shot in the opening round of the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open in in County Antrim on Thursday. File / Agence France-Presse
Dean Burmester, Jordan Smith and South Africa's Aaron Rai hit first rounds of 65 to share a one-shot lead after the first round of the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
The South African Burmester dominated Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort, which is hosting its maiden European Tour event, as he rolled in seven birdies and a double bogey in County Antrim.
The event was supposed to take place at Mount Juliet in County Kilkenny in May but was postponed in March due to the global health crisis which halted the 2020 Race to Dubai Presented by Rolex schedule for over four months.
Burmester was a regular feature during the six week UK Swing following golf's resumption in July and recorded a top ten finish at the English Championship and a top 25 placing at the ISPS Handa Wales Open.
And the 31-year-old continued his rich vein of form in Northern Ireland as he moved three shots clear of his closest rivals, although it could have been even greater.
An opening par was followed by a hat-trick of birdies from the next to propel him to an already commanding early advantage at the top of the leaderboard.
He was not finished on the front nine as he added another gain at the par three seventh to reach the turn in 30 but it was going to get better on the back nine for the 2017 Tshwane Open winner.
Another treble of birdies from the tenth saw Burmester climb up to seven under, with Dane Martin Simonsen, Scotland's David Law, Matthew Baldwin, Ireland's Damien McGrane and Swedish duo Niklas Lemke and Oscar Lengden proving to be his closest rivals some five shots adrift.
The possibility of only the second 59 in European Tour history was definitely on the cards, especially with a par five last for the big hitting South African, but he could not improve his score as he parred the next four holes.
Burmester dropped his first shots of the round at 17th courtesy of a double bogey six to trim his lead to three shots at five under before a finishing par saw him set the early pace in Ballymena, where only 18 players were in the red numbers as he entered the clubhouse.
Simonsen recovered from a double bogey to card four more birdies for a first round 68, while Lemke also finished at two under following four gains and two dropped shots, including one at the last.
Smith and Rai were the only players who carded five birdies to match Burmester at the top of the leaderboard.
Marcus Armitage was also at that mark after nine and four holes respectively as Frenchman Antoine Rozner joined them following a birdie-birdie start. Lengden carded three birdies and a bogey after five holes with fellow Swede Rikard Karlberg was at two under with three to play.
Law was one of seven players at one under after 16 holes, which also included Portugal Masters winner George Coetzee and Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts.
The 148th Open Championship winner Shane Lowry was three over at the turn while European Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington was among the afternoon starters.
Lucas Herbert, the 2020 Omega Dubai Desert Classic champion, shot a 64 (8 under par) to lead by one shot after the first round of the €3 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Open held at Mount Juliet in Ireland on Thursday.
156 players from 24 countries will compete this week for this prestigious title that has another player the privilege of a precious qualifying place for The Open, to be held at Royal St Georges Golf Club, Sandwich, Kent, England in a couple of week’s time, through the 2021 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
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