Michael Hoey three behind at Alfred Dunhill event as Darren Clarke slumps to a 78
Michael Hoey made an encouraging start to the Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa as an opening three-under-par 69 left him three off the pace.
Hoey, 37, has endured a dismal 2016 and as he lost his European Tour card and then also missed out at the recent qualifying school in Spain.
However playing on a sponsor's invite in South Africa, Hoey carded an opening five-birdie 69.
A closing quadruple bogey nine saw Darren Clarke signing for a 78.
Ireland's Paul Dunne shares the lead along with Charl Schwartzel.
Dunne's 66 included eight birdies and a double bogey while 2011 Masters champion Schwartzel didn't drop a shot in his round.
The duo are a stroke ahead of a six-strong group which includes homes players Brandon Stone and Jean Hugo plus Pablo Larrazabal.
Dunne's 2015 Walker Cup team-mate Jack Hume shot an opening 73 on the Leonard Creek course.
Hoey has indicated that he will play most of the golf on the second-tier Challenge Tour in 2017 but as a five-time European Tour winner, he can expect to receive a number of invites for main tour events.
The Galgorm Castle touring professional's round at Leopard Creek on Thursday left him sharing 18th place.