Northern Ireland’s Cormac Sharvin waited until the final hour but broke a log-jam at the top of the leaderboard in the first hour at the English Championship, the third event on the European Tour’s UK Swing.
The former University of Stirling player edged six other players who had finished on seven-under 64s in perfect conditions at Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire, picking up his tenth birdie at the 16th to finish with an eight-under 63 to lead by a shot.
Sharvin has his old college coach, former tour winner Dean Robertson, on his bag for the UK Swing and the young Irishman credits the Scot for his help.
“I struggled on the greens last week but myself and Dean did a lot of work on my putting process and we’ll see where that takes us,” he said.
“I didn’t do too much wrong today, put it in the fairway, made a few putts and it all added up to a 63. It’s always nice to shoot a good score on the first day and hopefully I can follow it up.”
Among the six sharing second was former Ryder Cup star David Howell – more a tour administrator than a full time player these days – as well as Australians Jason Scrivener and Min Woo Lee, Zimbabwe’s Scott Vincent, Laurie Canter of England and Belgium’s Tom Detry, who finished a narrow second at the Hero Open just last week.
Howell’s big shot was an eagle two holing from the fairway at the 15th, but for once in these spectator-less events, he had a small audience to let him know what had happened.
“There was a lovely family in their property behind the green, they might be the only golf fans we play in front of for the entire UK Swing,” he said. “They happened to be sat there on their own lawn when the ball went in and they were the giveaway that it was indeed an eagle.”
Howell doesn’t necessarily think that the course will toughen as the week progresses.
“The greens are still soft at the moment, and it will be interesting to see how that pans out over the next three days with the heat we are experiencing,” he said. “It could be that they need to be watered heavily to protect them.
“They may well stay soft and with fairways that are running, the course is playing short and gettable.”
A further 12 players were in a share of eighth place a shot further back, including veteran Scot David Drysdale in his 501st tour event and Drumoig’s Connor Syme, who had a fast start for the second week in a row.
Drysdale had his best return since the restart with a brilliant home half of four-under 31, while Syme was out in 32 and sustained it the rest of the way, not dropping a shot in his 65.
Richie Ramsay shot a five-under 66, Ewen Ferguson a 67, while Marc Warren and David Law had 68s.
Perth’s Daniel Young, who got into the tournament at the eleventh hour, had a one-under 70.