Peter Hanson Hanson, Rocha early leaders at European PGA Tour's Irish Open

Consistent driving and solid putting gave Sweden's Peter Hanson a share of the first round lead today at the European PGA Tour's 2007 Irish Open.

Hanson recorded four birdies for a 4-under-par 68 in early action at Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort. He shares the lead with Brazilian Alexandre Rocha at 4-under. He is midway through his round.

South African James Kingston finished at 3-under.

England's Simon Dyson and France's Raphael Jacquelin are two strokes back, and still playing the front nine.

More than half the field remain on the course.

England's Lee Westwood, a winner last week in Spain, sits at 1-under after 18.

Local favorite Padraig Harrington is at even par midway through his round.

Defending champion and World No. 10 Thomas Bjorn struggled on his round today, firing a three-over-par 75, a round that included a lot of ups and downs: a birdie-eagle combination on holes six and seven, but bogeys on the par-4 first and third, the par-5 ninth, par-4 10th and a double-bogey on the par-4 13th.

The Dane told reporters yesterday that the European Tour is seeing a major generational switch, with veterans like Colin Montgomerie and Jose Marie Olazábal fading from relevance and being replaced by a lot of younger starts.

"It might be that people don't know many of the players on this Tour, but in five years, people will know a lot about these guys and they will come through and be the strength of the Tour," he said. "We're just going through a generation change.

"Players like Oliver Wilson and Ross Fisher, I think they are two players that are going to go into a great future. Alvaro Quiros out of Spain is a great player. You see a lot of talent. When you stand on the range next to them you can certainly see that there's a lot of potential. They are players that will take this game to a different level. I just think that we've got to start looking at all of the talent we have coming through instead of saying, well, the top guys are not playing. Well, the top guys are just changing.

"There's no fear. That's the difference. When I came out on Tour, you had a lot of respect for your Faldos and Olazábals and your Montgomeries, and it took you quite a while to just feel comfortable," Bjorn concluded.

May 17, 2007

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