Lucas Herbert in full flight today – image Getty Images
Victorian Lucas Herbert and New South Welshman Blake Windred lead their respective European events after opening rounds overnight.
Herbert, fresh from a campaign on the PGA Tour where he has been able to earn starts via invite, Monday qualifying and other means while still a non-member of that tour began this week’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet with a round of 64 to lead by one over Johannes Veerman of the USA.
Herbert, has recorded encouraging top twenty finishes at each of his last two starts in the US, including a 19th place at last week’s Travelers Championship after having to Monday qualify to gain a start in the field for that event.
Herbert, currently ranked 91st in the world, is not only eying the title this week, but currently he does not have an exemption into this month’s Open Championship and the top three players not otherwise exempt at the end of this week’ championship will click their ticket to Royal St Georges on June 15th.
“It was a bit of a slow start,” said the 25 year old. “Even sort of the first eight holes, I birdied 15, made a nice putt and then 17, hit it in there pretty tight for eagle and missed it. Even the first eight holes felt a little bit slow out there, only hitting the two-ball with Laurie, and we just both felt like we are hitting it quite nice and couldn’t make any putts.
“I made a really long one on 18 for birdie and that kind of sparked things and got things going. Was able to play really nice that last nine holes. Felt like I was trying to get to 5- or 6-under and I didn’t really want to try and just attack really, really hard.”
The change from the style of courses he has been playing in the US appeared to play into Herbert’s hand.
“You can see in the fairways, even walking up the 9th there, starting to get some fairways that look like some pretty typical Irish Open stuff. It’s always fun when you come out and play some firm, fast golf courses. Coming from America, the rough is not as thick as probably been used to but it definitely up enough to make you interested out there.”
Perth’s Jason Scrivener, another of Australia’s brightest stars in Europe over the past couple of years, has also made a strong start with an opening round of 67, while Min Woo Lee had 68 and Maverick Antcliff 69.
Antcliff, playing on the secondary European Challenge Tour, continues to impress in the early stages of his professional career. An opening round of Kaskáda Golf Challenge in the Czech Republic.
The Australian birdied the final hole of his round to join German duo Marcel Schneider and Freddy Schott at the top of the leaderboard, the latter of whom will need to finish his opening round on Friday after only being able to complete 12 holes due to thunder and lightning at Kaskáda Golf Resort.
Newcastle’s Windred, who is playing in his maiden European Challenge Tour season, secured a career-best tie for second place at the Challenge de España last month and continued riding that wave of momentum into today’s round.
“I am very happy,” said the 23 year old who turned professional 18 months ago. “I feel like my game has been trending the last couple of weeks, that’s for sure, and having no bogeys out there definitely helps. I rolled a few putts in but in saying that, I gave myself a lot of opportunities and I was able to make six of them, so I’m pretty pleased with that.
“It’s a difficult course. If you miss a few tee shots, it can cost you a few shots. The play is to just stay aggressive. There are a few tee shots where you just have to smoke driver down the middle.
“It was a couple of hours’ delay and I just got some Netflix in, a bite to eat and then wheeled back out there. I didn’t think it was too bad.”
Windred also recorded top fives at two events earlier in the year in Australia including a runner-up finish at the Queensland Open and has improved his world ranking from outside the top 1000 at the start of the year to now inside the top 500.
He is now 27th in the Race to Mallorca rankings, the top twenty at season’s end earning European Tour cards for next season.
Blake Windred in action during round one – image courtesy of Getty Images