Johannesburg - It may or may not be true that one can buy tins of Irish golfing brilliance in your local pro shop, but Damien McGrane kept the green, white and orange flag at the top of the leaderboard at the Joburg Open at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Thursday.
Irish golf is enjoying a phenomenal time of it on the various professional tours around the world and McGrane continued the trend on Thursday with a tremendous round of eight-under-par 63 to take him to the top of the leaderboard before a thunderstorm brought a halt to play.
"It's been quite incredible the last three or four years for a small nation to have such great results and we do feed off each other a bit. When I won in China in 2008, Darren Clarke won the following week and Peter Lawrie the week after that. Every so often we have our good spells and I wouldn't mine getting another one started here," McGrane said after his great round.
To shoot seven birdies and an eagle and just one bogey (on the last hole!), McGrane obviously adhered to the theory that the most important way around the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington course is to keep your ball in play.
"I played beautifully, from start to finish. The West Course does give up opportunities to score and tomorrow will obviously be more difficult on the East Course. But the course is perfect, the weather was perfect and I made a few putts.
"I was able to stack up the birdies and chipped in for eagle on 15, which was a nice bonus. But the wetness of the course means there's no run out there, the course is playing very long. I made use of every club in the bag and it was just about making the best of the situation. I hit every fairway, except for the last, which led to a bogey, which was disappointing," McGrane said.
The 40-year-old is trying to recapture the heights of 2010, when he finished 41st on the European Tour Order of Merit, with a runner-up finish and five other top-10s, having endured a disappointing 2011. McGrane only finished 115th in the Race to Dubai and has failed to make a cut since the Castello Masters on April 23.
Barring a catastrophe on the East Course on Friday, McGrane will be in the money this weekend, trying to hold off the challenge of South African Desvonde Botes on seven-under, and the group on six-under comprising Joel Sjoholm, David Drysdale, George Coetzee, George Murray, Carlos del Moral, Shaun Norris and Jamie Elson.
Scores (RSA unless specified):
-8 - Damien McGrane (IRL)
-7 - Desvonde Botes
-6 - Joel Sjoholm (SWE), David Drysdale (SCO), George Coetzee, George Murray (SCO), Carlos Del Moral (ESP), Shaun Norris
-5 - Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Retief Goosen, Peter Hedblom (SWE), Warren Abery, Richard Finch (ENG), Marc Warren (SCO), Wallie Coetsee
-4 - Chris Swanepoel, Jaco Van Zyl, Ulrich van den Berg
-3 - Theunis Spangenberg, Des Terblanche, Jean Hugo, Jake Roos, Thomas Aiken, Daniel Gaunt (AUS), Robert Dinwiddie (ENG), Darren Fichardt, Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Adam Gee (ENG), Trevor Fisher Jnr
-2 - Jose de Jesus Rodriguez (MEX), Seve Benson (ENG), Michael du Toit, Dawie Van der Walt, Danny Willett (ENG), Gregory Havret (FRA), Chris Gane (ENG), Magnus A Carlsson (SWE), Pelle Edberg (SWE)
-1 - Raymond Russell (SCO), Phillip Archer (ENG), Ariel Canete (ARG), Roope Kakko (FIN), Alessandro Tadini (ITA), Markus Brier (AUT), Andrea Pavan (ITA), Guillaume Cambis (FRA)
Par - Daniel Greene, David Dixon (ENG), Adilson Da Silva (BRA), Niclas Fasth (SWE), PH McIntyre, Hennie Otto, Lasse Jensen(DEN), Brandon Stone (AMA), Neil Cheetham (ENG), JG Claassen, Alvaro Velasco (ESP)
+1 - Tyrone Ferreira, Scott Strange (ENG)
+2 - Ryan Thompson, Lindani Ndwandwe, Matthew Baldwin (ENG), Titch Moore, Knut Borsheim (NOR)
+3 - Danie van Tonder, Lloyd Saltman (SCO), Jorge Campillo (ESP), Albert Pistorius, Andrew Curlewis, Louis Moolman
+4 - Alpheus Kelapile, Bernd Ritthammer (GER), Ryan Cairns (ZIM), Kenneth Ferrie (ENG), Jamie Moul (ENG), Darryn Lloyd
+5 - Morten Orum Madsen (DEN), Alan Michell, Jaco Ahlers
+6 - Edouard Dubois (FRA), Prinavin Nelson