On a day where low scores were plentiful — more than half the field (82 of the 156) shot under par — Shubhankar Sharma bested everyone, posting a 7-under 65 around The K Club on Thursday afternoon.
Sharma, who began his day on No. 10, picked up four shots on the closing three holes of his front nine, birding Nos. 16 and 17 before draining his 104-yard approach into the par-5 18th for eagle.
After making the turn, Sharma added circles on Nos. 2 and 4 to solidify his bogey-free 7-under performance. The 27-year-old, who finished T-8 at the Open Championship in July, has yet to record a win on the PGA Tour and hasn’t entered the winner’s circle on the DP World Tour since 2018.
One shot behind the leader is a pack of six players, including 52-year-old Thomas Bjorn who surprised even himself during the opening round of the Horizon Irish Open.
I’m as surprised as you…🤣 https://t.co/yWgeY6tj7P
— Thomas Bjørn (@thomasbjorngolf) September 7, 2023
“I’m fortunate, I’ve played this golf course so many times,” Bjorn said after signing for a 6-under 66. “It’s a long time ago. We played here every year, but it’s always been the same fairways and greens.
“I drove it very well today. I drove it in the middle of the fairway. I think I missed one fairway in this round of golf, and then this golf course becomes a lot easier to deal with.”
Six players are tied for seventh, two back of Sharma, while 13 players — including European Ryder Cupper Shane Lowry and captain Luke Donald — are three back at 4 under.
Rory McIlroy and Billy Horschel, who were paired together and shared a great moment for all those golf swing nerds out there, shot matching 3-under 69s.
McIlroy, who sustained a back injury prior to the Tour Championship last month, said it was no problem on Thursday.
“Not at all,” the Northern Irishman said when asked if the back was an issue on Day 1. “It’s more that I have not been able to hit a ton of balls. I’m hitting good shots but as you know it’s all about knowing your patterns and where you’re missing it and where to aim and where not to aim and just a little unsure over a couple shots but again overall I managed myself well today and got it around.”
Back in 2016, McIlroy won the Irish Open at The K Club.