Byrne eclipses Lewis at Dunhill Links with ace

BY foxsports • September 30, 2011

James Byrne stole the show from Walker Cup teammate Tom Lewis at the Dunhill Links Championship on Friday, making a hole-in-one at Carnoustie to announce himself on the world stage in his first European Tour event as a professional.

Byrne aced the par-3 13th when his 7-iron from 174 yards landed just short of the pin before dropping in.

That shot came between a birdie and an eagle as the 22-year-old Scot picked up five strokes in three holes to briefly move to 10 under, one behind the leaders.

A closing seven saw him finish with a 71 - for 6 under overall - but Byrne ensured he eclipsed Lewis, another player to recently turn professional who is better known globally after taking a shock first-round lead at this year's British Open.

''I couldn't actually see the hole from the tee but I heard the roar and realized it must have gone in,'' Byrne said.

''After making two eagles in a row, I felt I was playing well enough to be in contention at that point but just a couple of mental lapses coming in cost me.''

Like Lewis, Byrne played a key role in helping Britain & Ireland defeat United States in the Walker Cup in Aberdeen this month, marking him as a potential star in the making.

Events like that, and this week's prestigious Dunhill Links, have made Byrne appreciate what it's like to be put under the glare of the spotlight as he embarks on his professional career.

''I played some really big events in the last month with a lot of crowds and media, and handled myself well. I think that set me up really well,'' Byrne said.

Byrne believes those experiences will serve him well as he attempts to earn his European Tour card for 2012 in just seven end-of-season events, just as Rory McIlroy did in 2007.

''My expectation before this week definitely wasn't to be in the top three in my first European Tour event as a professional,'' he said. ''For me, it's about playing well, soaking everything up, getting a lot of experience and if anything remarkable happens and I end up finishing high up, then that's fine.

''But I've realized that if I play well, I can compete with these guys. At one stage I was tied for the lead. So my expectations may be changing a little bit.''

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