Andrew Marshall’s excellent run of form on the European Tour continued yesterday when he surged all the way to the top of the leaderboard in the Irish Open.

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The Norfolk professional, joint 12th at the BMW Open in Cologne last week, recorded a six under par round of 66 at Royal Portrush to comfortably outscore the big names taking part.

At one stage he found himself leading the way with Australian Matthew Zions and fellow Englishman Mark Foster, but Indian veteran Jeev Milkha Singh and Frenchman Gregory Bourdy eventually overhauled them with 65s.

Starting on the 10th, Marshall was only one under at the turn after two birdies and one dropped shot, but he then proceeded to play his final nine holes in just 31 shots, with five birdies and four pars.

The course and tough conditions ideally suited the 38-year-old’s game, as he demonstrated to such terrific effect last week where the wind had a massive effect on the scoring.

As well as finishing just outside the top 10 in Germany the Dereham player had the added bonus of a hole-in-one on the second day, for which he won a £100,000 BMW 6 series Gran Coupe. Marshall also notched a notable scalp in Spain’s Ryder Cup hero Sergio Garcia, who he played with in his third round and beat by just the nine shots.

“That was awesome (playing with Garcia),” he said. “He never turned up. He had a poor start, he holed nothing, he shot 79. We had a bit of a chit-chat. I shot a 70 with a bogey, par bogey finish,” said Marshall, who admitted to feeling an attack of nerves when the Sky TV cameras turned up for his final three holes.

That said, however, he is relishing a turn in the spotlight having spent the last two years in the golfing wilderness and he believes he now has the experience and the right mental attitude to cope and to make the most of his opportunities.

Marshall said: “I played with Pele Edberg in Sweden a couple of weeks ago and he had quite a large local following and I played with Niclas Fasth the day before that and he had did too. I’d not played in front of big crowds like that for a long while and that was something I’ve never been that comfortable with initially but after a few weeks it’s okay.

“I’ve been through all that before. I’ve shot my 77s or 80s when playing with someone famous or playing in front of the crowds and I’m better than that now, I realise that I am good enough to play with these guys. I’ve been working on my technique and I’m hitting it a lot straighter. Even my bad shots are on the green, my chipping is quite good, my putting is quite good. I’m just getting on with it. I’m not wasting time over shots, second guessing. I’m looking at it aferwards not while I’m doing it. My method is working really well,” added Marshall.

Marshall is fully focused on doing well this week but is also looking forward to local final qualifying for the Open on Tuesday at St Annes Old Links Golf Club in Lancashire.

“I going straight from there on Sunday,” said Marshall, who last played in the Open at St Andrews in 2005 when he finished in a tie for 48th. “It would be nice to qualify but all that’s on my mind at the moment is doing well in Ireland.”

Marshall, who was one of six players to shoot 66, outscored the four Irish superstars in the field, with Padraig Harrington managing a 67, Rory McIlroy a 70 and Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke 71s.

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