Despite cold and cloudy weather, Smyth leads with a seven-under-par 64 with Feherty and Van de Velde just one shot behind. An eagle three at the final hole gave Smith his lead, but he also had seven birdies on his card as well as two bogeys.
Smyth, 43 and in his 26th season on the European Tour, agreed that the long putter is making him a far more relaxed player.
Feherty, too, is now a committed broom-handle disciple, though this is only the third tournament in which he has used it.
Feherty had a bogey-free round with six birdies, two of which came with 30ft putts and another with a putt from 15 feet. Van de Velde intends to keep his orthodox putter, despite the success of his rivals. He had eight birdies and two bogeys in his round
While the Frenchman and the Irish duo were setting the pace, Americans Scott Hoch and John Daly were not enjoying themselves. Hoch, the defending champion, shot a one-under-par 70, but called his round "mediocre". Daly dropped four shots in his first three holes, including a treble-bogey seven at the 344-yard second hole, and, although he improved, finished with a disappointing 75, still four over par.
Roy Smethurst, a 54-year-old computer systems analyst from Crewe, shares the first-round lead alongside former British Ryder Cup players Neil Coles and Malcolm Gregson in the Senior British Open at Royal Portrush.
A former England youth international who has played from scratch for the past 30 years, Smethurst matched the opening five under par 67 of Coles and Gregson.
Alison Nicholas stepped up her bid for an automatic Solheim Cup place when she shot a three-under-par 69 to lead the field in the Guardian Irish Open at the Citywest Country House Hotel near Dublin yesterday.Reuse content