Golf: Coarse Daly at home on Nicklaus' course: Big hitter settles in as Torrance leads Irish Open

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The Independent Online
JOHN PATRICK DALY, quenching his thirst on the obligatory can of Diet Coke, is making his first appearance in the Emerald Isle and can therefore be forgiven for coming across like a greenhorn. 'The crowd is so mellow, so polite,' he said. 'I'd like to see them get a bit more rowdy by the weekend.' He clearly doesn't know his Cork from his Coke.

No Irish crowd at any sports event needs any encouragement to raise the roof and let its hair down, although perhaps the majority of the seasoned hell-raisers are on World Cup duty in America. 'I think the Irish drink a little more than the Americans,' Daly said with almost touching naivety. Daly, who has not touched a drop for 18 months, shot 70 in the first round of the Irish Open here but, in excellent conditions, a score of two under par was two a penny.

He failed to exploit his prodigious length at the four par fives, gaining a birdie at only one of them. Seve Ballesteros, wearing green, birdied three of them in a round of 67 but found himself two strokes adrift of Sam Torrance. Torrance's 65 equalled the course record established by Nick Faldo last year. On that occasion Faldo went to the turn in 31; yesterday Torrance came home in 31 with an eagle at the 10th and birdies at 16, 17 and 18.

On the US Tour Daly is accustomed to hearing such gems as: 'You're the man]' 'It's great,' Daly said 'not to hear that shit.' The course at Mount Juliet here has, at great expense, Jack Nicklaus's signature on it. 'It's an American course and I feel at home,' Daly said.

The coarse American said that in the US some spectators booed him if he hit an iron off the tee instead of his Killer Whale driver. What would they say? 'Things like chicken shit. . . nothing really bad.' The press officer was sitting next to Daly, taking notes in shorthand. 'How do you read that shit?' the American asked. Recording Daly's conversation is not that difficult.

Twelve months ago Ballesteros was in the depths of a recession. This season he has shown greater consistency although he thought Mount Juliet was easier than last year and the greens are too slow.

Torrance, playing at Mount Juliet for the first time, thought the greens were perfect - 'fantastically fair' - but then his pendulum putter was working a treat. Torrance was six strokes better off than one of his playing partners, Ernie Els, the US Open champion, who was fined pounds 250 for missing the pro-am prize giving. At seven under par Torrance is two in front of Ballesteros and Craig Cassells, a 25-year-old Geordie who is based in Aberdeen.

Cassells was asked if Seve was his role model. 'No,' he replied. 'Nick is. He swings nice, he putts nice and he has lots of money.'

Faldo, who is attempting to win the Irish Open for the fourth time in a row, shot 69 and he too failed to cash in on the longer holes. He birdied only one of them and at the eighth took a six. While Faldo did what he always does in Ireland - he went fishing - Torrance also remained loyal to his traditions. He went in search of the black stuff.

MURPHY'S IRISH OPEN (Mount Juliet, County Kilkenny) First round leading scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 65 S Torrance. 67 S Ballesteros (Sp), C Cassells. 68 D Borrego (Sp), R Allenby (Aus), T Johnstone (Zim), M Clayton (Aus), M Gronberg, L Westwood, J-M Olazabal (Sp), P Lawrie. 69 E Romero (Arg), I Palmer (SA), D Hospital (Sp), S Struver (Ger), A Binaghi (It), R Karlsson (Swe), I Garrido (Sp), M Harwood (Aus), N Faldo, B Nelson (US), B Marchbank. 70 M Gates, G Evans, M Miller, C Montgomerie, A Gillner (Swe), J Daly (US), P Baker, B Langer (Ger), M McNulty (Zim), C Parry (Aus), A Oldcorn, G Orr, S Bowman (US), P O'Malley (Aus), M McLean.