Mikko Ilonen leads Marcel Siem by two after day one at the Irish Open

Mikko Ilonen had a sensational Thursday shooting a 64 at Fota Island
Mikko Ilonen had a sensational Thursday shooting a 64 at Fota Island
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Shooting a 64 on the first day of a tournament is never a bad thing. Alex Johnson rounds up Day One at the Irish Open

Jose Maria Olazabal, winner of the Irish Open at Portmarnock 24-year ago, showed he can still mix it with the young guns with a two-under-par 69.

Mikko Ilonen stormed to the top of the leaderboard on day one of the Irish Open at Fota Island with a course-record 64.

The Finn made eight birdies against a solitary dropped shot to take a two-shot lead over Germany's Marcel Siem.

Hot on the heels of his decision to represent Ireland at the Rio Olympics, Rory McIlroy will require some Olympian spirit to recover from a disappointing opening round of 74.

There was no disguising the star on day one, as 34-year-old Ilonen posted five birdies in his closing seven holes to take a clear advantage.

Starting from the tenth, the Finn reached the turn in three-under following a birdie at the 18thhole. A disappointing bogey at the first would not derail his challenge and his exceptional ball-striking led him to five more birdies.

Having won a British Amateur Championship at Hoylake in 2000, Ilonen will be thrilled to hit form with the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool on the horizon.

Siem also had to remain patient before making inroads on the back nine en route to an opening 66.

The German, just outside the top ten at the US Open last week, hit four birdies in succession from the 12th as his round caught fire. He added a closing birdie at the final hole to share second spot with two Swedes.

Magnus Carlsson and Robert Karlsson joined Siem on five-under par, on what was a perfect day for scoring at the Co Cork venue. Veteran Karlsson is chasing a first European Tour win since 2010.

Edoardo Molinari and Anders Hansen are among a group of four players on -4, after which the field really begins to bunch up.

With conditions ideal, no fewer than 58 players broke par on day one out of the 156 that started out.

Leading the charge for the home side are Graeme McDowell and Michael Hoey on three-under par. Meanwhile, Padraig Harrington, Peter Lawrie and amateur Gavin Moynihan are part of a 16-man group on two-under par.

The centre of attention before the off following his Olympic declaration on Wednesday, McIlroy was one of the big names to take to the course early on Thursday morning.

Dropped shots at the second and third holes set the tone for a frustrating day for the two-time major winner.

Despite driving the ball well, McIlroy's iron-play was loose and he relied on a birdie at the final hole in order to card 74 - ten shots back from Ilonen's pace.

Defending champion Paul Casey got off to a superb start - four-under par through twelve - but dropped shots at the 13th and 15th left him on two-under par.

Ross Fisher was champion at Killarney in 2010 and the Englishman gained his only success since at the Tshwane Open in May. Fisher is nicely placed on a three-under after an opening 69.

There were contrasting fortunes for Europe's current and past Ryder Cup captains.

Jose Maria Olazabal, winner of the Irish Open at Portmarnock 24-year ago, showed he can still mix it with the young guns with a two-under-par 69.

Paul McGinley however, was forced to settle for 73 after dropping three shots on the back-nine.

On his first day as a professional, Matthew Fitzpatrick found the going tough and eventually got into the clubhouse on one-over par.

The excellent conditions are expected to continue into the second round on Friday. Ilonen will be hoping to continue his fine form from day one. Could the Finn see his course record coming under threat in the Fota Island sunshine?

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