Horsey shows class on gallop to front

Perhaps this is why Rory McIlroy is so indifferent when it comes to team golf. One Sunday a former team-mate from his amateur days grabs the spotlight with the most unlikeliest of triumphs and the very next Thursday another goes and takes the headlines at the BMW PGA Championship. Team-mates, eh? Who needs 'em?

McIlroy, of course, is far too nice a young man ever to harbour such bitterness and his by now infamous "the Ryder Cup is just an exhibition event" comments undoubtedly emanated purely from his own ambition. In fact, when Shane Lowry became the first amateur to win on his debut on the European Tour at the Irish Open, McIlroy stayed behind to congratulate him and would have been delighted that Lowry heeded his suggestion and yesterday decided to sign up for the paid ranks. The 22-year-old will now tee it up at next week's European Open and his professional debut will add yet more interest to the event.

For now, however, the brunt of the focus has fallen on David Horsey, who played with McIlroy at the 2007 Walker Cup at Royal County Down and who eclipsed the Ulsterman – not to mention all the other stars of European golf – in the first-round here. First man out, Horsey's 67 kept him on top of the leaderboard all day (although Anthony Wall and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano were to join him on five-under). Having won the Challenge Tour in his rookie season at a canter, Horsey is nobody's idea of a rank outsider, even at this "flagship" tournament. As the identities of his stablemates signify.

The 24-year-old Englishman is looked after by the same management company as McIlroy, Ernie Els, Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke. That should provide some indication of his potential. Then there is his connection with Ricky Hatton. Ged Mason is Horsey's main sponsor, just as he is Hatton's. The Manchester businessman also happens to co-own a string of horses with Sir Alex Ferguson, who pays close attention to Horsey's burgeoning career. As an avid Red – who turned up at a swanky United corporate bash recently decked in a club shirt – Horsey is understandably motivated by having such backing.

There is one supporter, however, who obviously inspires him more than any other. The pink ribbon Horsey wore on his lapel was poignant yesterday. On Wednesday Phil Mickelson revealed that his wife, Amy, was suffering from breast cancer and that he has suspended his playing career indefinitely as she begins her treatment. Horsey explained how his mother, Anne, is coming to the end of her own chemotherapy as she battles the same disease. "I think it's probably kept her going," said Horsey. "She's been at home watching me on TV and keep track of my scores online and hopefully it's helped in that respect. It's at the back of my mind when I'm out there."

The manner in which he finished off his round would have been particularly thrilling to those back home in Cheshire. A 15-footer rolled in on the 16th set him up for the two par fives which close the West Course and he duly hit both greens in two to make it three birdies in succession. Many in the field were to make hay on this famous finale.

Colin Montgomerie, for instance, seemed his inimitable grumpy self when barking at a marshall who had the temerity to hold up a "Quiet Please" sign while he lined up a putt on the penultimate hole. Five shots later, Monty had finished birdie-eagle and suddenly he was only two back on three-under. He was then to claim that being Ryder Cup captain "is a huge distraction, which might well be a good thing in the long run". No, it didn't make much sense.

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