Irish Open: Rory McIlroy eight behind first-round leaders at Portstewart

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Rory McIlroy 'frustrated' after an opening 72 leaves him eight off Irish Open pace
Dubai Duty Free Irish Open first round leaderboard
-8 D Im (US), B Hebert (Fra); -7 J Rahm (Spa), M Southgate (Eng), O Fisher (Eng); -6 M Fitzpatrick (Eng), J Donaldson (Wal), D Drysdale (Sco)
Selected others:-5 S Gallacher (Sco), H Matsuyama (Jpn), J Rose (Eng), G McDowell (NI), P Dunne (Ire); -4 I Poulter (Eng), P Harrington (Ire); -3 MA Jimenez (Spa); -2 T Fleetwood (Eng); -1 D Willett (Eng); Level R McIlroy (NI); +2 D Clarke (NI); +4 L Westwood (Eng)
Full leaderboard

Tournament host Rory McIlroy is eight behind leaders Daniel Im and Benjamin Hebert after firing an opening level-par 72 at the Irish Open.

On a day of low scoring, holder McIlroy struggled with his putting as he finished with 11 straight pars.

American world number 542 Im and Frenchman Hebert both kept bogeys off their card in rounds of 64.

The leaders are one ahead of Spain's Jon Rahm and English pair Oliver Fisher and Matthew Southgate.

Rahm, in a loaded three-ball with McIlroy and Japanese world number two Hideki Matsuyama, dropped only one shot in a round which saw an eagle at the seventh.

Matsuyama also outscored McIlroy by five strokes after regrouping from a first-hole bogey.

Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm chat during Thursday's round at Portstewart
Jon Rahm outscored McIlroy by seven shots on Thursday

'Just one of those days' for McIlroy

McIlroy quickly cut a frustrated figure in front of a huge gallery as he missed a five-foot par putt at the third after being short with his tee shot.

After responding with a four at the par-five fourth, McIlroy's mis-hit tee shot at the short sixth led to another dropped stroke and while he managed a routine gain at the long seventh, it proved to be his final birdie as he parred his last 11 holes.

He failed to get a birdie at the 13th after a thinned bunker shot saw him failing to get up and down. He also could not manage birdie putts over the closing holes.

"I don't think you are going to get this course much easier," said the 28-year-old, who shares 106th place after the opening round.

"There were so many opportunities out there with loads of wedges into the par fours and four-par fives that were all very reachable.

"I gave myself lots of chances but just didn't get anything quite going.

"I didn't get any momentum. I was trying my hardest out there but it just one of those days."

Daniel Im acknowledges applause after holing a long par putt on his final hole
UCLA graduate Im is 114th in the Race to Dubai standings

Im takes advantage of early fortune

English pair Fisher and Southgate were the early clubhouse leaders before New Jersey-born Im, 114th in the Race to Dubai, and world number 254 Hebert moved top, each with eight birdies in their rounds of 64.

"I got a little bit fortunate early on when I pulled my tee shot at the first and got away with it and then after chipping in for birdie at the third, I mis-hit my tee shot at the fourth but again it didn't do any damage," said UCLA graduate Im.

After reaching the sixth tee on four under, birdies on the seventh and eighth saw Im going to the turn in 30 and he picked up further gains at the 13th and 14th before his long par putt at the last.

"Just before the 18th, my three previous putts touched the edge of the hole and I thought: 'Maybe this one is going to drop'," added Im.

British players Matthew Fitzpatrick, David Drysdale and Jamie Donaldson are all two shots off the pace while Olympic champion Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell are in a large group three behind the leaders which includes Matsuyama and Ireland's Paul Dunne.

Those on four under include Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey, plus Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Ian Poulter.

Late triple and double bogeys left Lee Westwood in a group on 76 which only had France's Sebastien Gros behind them in the 156-strong field.

After standing one under par on the 14th tee, Westwood took an eight at the 14th after having to take two penalty drops from the gorse and dropped two more strokes at the 16th.

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