Two golfing unknowns lead the Irish Open

David Lord Columnist

By , David Lord is a Roar Expert

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    There are four Open Championship berths available from the Irish Open at Portstewart with unknowns Daniel Im, and Benjamin Hebert making bold bids for two of them.

    American Im, ranked 542 in the world, and Frenchman Hebert, ranked 254, are on top of the leaderboard with flawless rounds of 64, that included eight birdies apiece.

    To put their rounds in perspective, the top marquee group of Jon Rahm (65), Hideki Matsuyama (67), and the tournament host Rory McIlroy (72) couldn’t catch them.

    McIlroy described the superb course on Ulster’s Causeway Coast as “In perfect condition, and it will never be easier than today, but I couldn’t find any momentum”.

    The four-time major champion just couldn’t find the flag, consistently having long putts for birdies where he ended up with two, and two bogeys.

    But the day belonged to Im and Hebert with pretty similar backgrounds.

    Im was born in New Jersey 32 years ago, and began his pro golf career in Canada in 2008 where he won twice to be awarded the International Rookie of the Year trophy.

    But he didn’t kick on, and despite trying different tours, couldn’t find a golfing home.

    But Im has been on the European Tour since 2013 where he’s had 69 starts, making 47 cuts, earning just $605,000 with his best finish four top 10s.

    Hebert (30), won the European Amateur in 2007 to qualify for the 137th Open Championship, but like Im couldn’t sustain his start.

    As a result Hebert has been moving between the European and Challenge Torts ever since, at last retaining his European ticket in 2015.

    So far he’s played in 134 tournaments, with today by far his best round, just like Im.

    It will be interesting to see how the pair play out this Irish Open, especially over the weekend when they will be among.the more elite golfers.

    Kiwi Ryan Fox, with a first round 68, will have one eye on his golf ball, and the other on the live coverage of the All Blacks-Lions decider at Eden Park.

    The third and final Test will be shown on course, with Fox knowing his father Grant, an All Black legend, will be at the game.

    But keep an eye on Jon Rahm, and Hideki Matsuyama, who will be the ones to beat, with Justin Rose a contender.

    Rahm carded an eagle, six birdies and a bogey in his 65, Matsuyama six birdies and a bogey in his 67.

    Rose, who has been out of sorts for awhile, showed a return to form with an eagle and three birdies in his 67.

    The golfer with a mountain of the problems is Lee Westwood.

    He lies second last in the field of 156 after a 76 that included a triple at the 14th, and a double at 16 to ruin his day.

    David Lord
    David Lord

    David Lord was deeply involved in two of the biggest sporting stories - World Series Cricket in 1977 and professional rugby in 1983. After managing Jeff Thomson and Viv Richards during WSC, in 1983 David signed 208 of the best rugby players from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France to play an international pro circuit. The concept didn’t get off the ground, but it did force the IRB to get cracking and bring in the World Rugby Cup, now one of the world’s great sporting spectacles

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