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Fisher shares early lead

England's Ross Fisher made a bright start to his Irish Open title defence on Thursday, carding a four-under-par 67 to put him among the early clubhouse leaders in Killarney.

Fisher was paired with US Open champion Rory McIlroy, out of sorts at the British Open, who enjoyed mixed fortunes as he signed for a one under 70.

The Northern Irishman had bounced straight back from his disappointing performance at Sandwich to set the early pace with four birdies in the first 10 holes before marring his day with a bogey at the 11th and a closing double bogey.

Playing in his first tournament on home soil since the US Open, the 22-year-old pulled off what he described as "one of the best shots I've ever hit" to save par at the 14th after a spectacular hook around the trees from deep rough onto the green.

But he met trouble again on the 18th when, lying at three under par and one off the lead, he went from a fairway bunker into water for his double bogey. "At four under through 10, things were going along quite nicely, but I didn't drive it great all day and I played some scrappy golf coming in," he reflected.

"My driving caught up with me at the end. I just need to be more decisive on the tees I was stuck in two minds."

Of his 130-yard approach at the 14th to within 20 feet of the flag that he had to move nearly 50 yards right to left he said: "All I was trying to do was get it in the front bunker."

Later McIlroy became embroiled in a row on social networking site Twitter with commentator and former European Tour player Jay Townsend.

McIlroy's ire was spiked when Townsend described his course management as "shocking" and "some of the worst I have ever seen beyond under-10 boys' golf competition".

McIlroy responded: "Shut up ... you're a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing!"

Townsend stated that he stood by his comments and McIlroy then said: "Well, I stand by my caddie."

McIlroy set the golfing world alight with his eight-stroke win at the US Open, but his hopes of doubling up in the British Open were dashed in the poor weather in Kent when he trailed in only 25th.

It was then announced that McIlroy's relationship with long-time girlfriend Holly Sweeney was over and he was linked with tennis world number one Caroline Wozniacki, but he laughed on Wednesday when asked if the tape on his fingers was caused by playing too much tennis.

"Very funny," he said before commenting about his personal life: "I try to keep it as private as possible.

"Sometimes it's not possible, but it is what it is and you just have to handle that as best you can."

His compatriot and last year's US Open champion Graeme McDowell came in with a one over 73.

AFP

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