Golf-Irishman McGrane sets pace in South Korea

A hot putter led to a one-stroke lead after the first round for Damien McGrane of Ireland during Thursday’s $2.8 million Ballantine Championship held in South Korea.

He would have made a six-under-par 66 if not for the pair of bogeys at the Blackstone Golf Club near Seoul but he is not complaining.

“I holed everything inside 15 feet,” McGrane told reporters after stealing the thunder from world number one Lee Westwood and a host of other big-name players on the first day of the co-sanctioned event.

“I made plenty of birdies and I putted nicely. I also made two bogeys which came out of nowhere but that’s golf.

“I still think there are a lot of birdie chances out there and scoring will be quite low this week,” added McGrane, whose sole European Tour win came at the 2008 China Open.

Westwood, who has just reclaimed the top golf rankings in the world, finished with a 72 after he got a double-bogey on his last hole.

“I’m still in contention,” Westwood said. “On the first 15 holes I played very nicely and gave myself a lot of chances without really making any putts.”

On McGrane’s heels with 67 were Park Sang-hyun of South Korea and Richard Finch of Britain.

“It’s a tough golf course and I somehow managed to keep bogeys off the card, which was nice,” said Finch. “This course has a lot of elevation changes and slopes.

“Even the greens have some huge slopes and ridges in them. I just tried to make it a real key to get it on the fairway and try to get on the correct level with my approach shot.”