|Irish Open first round|
|-5 D Burmester (SA), J Smith (Eng), A Rai (Eng); -4 T Tree (Eng); -3 R Karlberg (Swe), J Sugrue (AM) (Ire), O Lengden (Swe), J Catlin (US), S Gallacher (Sco)|
|Selected others: Level D McGrane (Ire); +1 G Coetzee (SA), J Caldwell (NI), P Harrington (Ire); +3 N Colsaerts (Bel), T McKibbin (AM) (NI) +4 E Molinari (Ita); +8 R Fox (Nzl)|
Open champion Shane Lowry struggled to a five-over-par 75 on the first day of the Irish Open at Galgorm Castle.
Lowry, competing in Ireland for the first time since picking up the Claret Jug at Royal Portrush in July 2019, faces a battle to make the halfway cut.
The Offaly man posted eight bogeys and three birdies in his round, including picking up a shot at the 18th.
South African Dean Burmester and English duo Jordan Smith and Aaron Rai lead after round one on five under.
Early starter Burmester birdied seven of the first 12 holes but a double bogey six at the 17th saw him drop back within the sights of the chasing pack.
Smith and Rai matched his 65 with bogey-free rounds as all three players chase their second European Tour successes.
Smith won the European Open in 2017, the same year as Burmester triumphed in the Tswane Open, with Rai taking victory in the 2018 Hong Kong Open.
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Another English competitor, Toby Tree, lies one off the lead after shooting a 66, with five players, including the leading Irish representative, amateur James Sugrue, a further shot back on three under.
Cork native Sugrue, 24, played in the US Open last week as part of his reward for winning the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock in 2019.
The contingent on three under also includes Sweded Rikard Karlberg and Oscar Langden, plus American John Catlin and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher.
Lowry's 'comedy of errors'
Lowry won the Irish Open as an amateur in 2009 and arrived in County Antrim this week on the back of a 43rd place finish in the US Open at Winged Foot.
"It was a comedy of errors out there - there wasn't one part of my game that was above average," said Lowry after his disappointing opening round.
"Every time I made some really bad decisions I executed my shots really badly. I really struggled on the greens too.
"It's not easy shooting a score like that when you really want to do well. I have to go out there on Friday to fight to make the cut."
Dutchman Daan Huizing and Swede Joakim Largergren, both former winners of the Northern Ireland Open Challenge Tour event at the Ballymena parkland course, are well in contention on level par.
Highly-fancied South African George Coetzee was grouped with Lowry for the first two rounds and fared a little better than his playing partner by firing a one-over 71.
Coetzee followed up back-to-back victories on the Sunshine Tour's Titleist Championship and European Tour's Portugal Masters with a tied third place at last week's Open de Portugal - his ninth worldwide top 10 of 2020.
Europe Ryder Cup captain and ex-Irish Open winner Padraig Harrington also recorded a 71 in his first competitive round for seven months, with Northern Ireland's Johnny Caldwell on the same score.
Tyler Koivisto, winner of the NI Open over the same course earlier this month lies three over, along with 17-year-old NI amateur Tom McKibbin and Belgium's ex-Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts.
Another former Ryder Cup player, Edoardo Molinari is one shot worse off, while in-form New Zealander Ryan Fox, also an NI Open winner in the past, will be disappointed with his eight-over 78.
It was a day to forget for one of Northern Ireland's European Tour regulars, Cormac Sharvin, who is tied for last position on 13 over after signing for an 83.
The Galgorm venue is hosting a European Tour event for the first time after the event, originally scheduled to take place at Mount Juliet in Kilkenny in May, was postponed.