Ryan Fox finished with four birdies and an eagle in his final six holes to smash the course record with a nine under par round of 62 to lead by one from Robert Coles after the first round of Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge.
The New Zealander made his Major Championship debut at St Andrews last week, finishing in the top 50 of The Open Championship after a fine 67 in the final round, and he continued that form in France.
The 28 year old is only playing in his fourth European Challenge Tour event but recorded top ten finishes in his first two tournaments, and he believes he is in strong enough form to win this week.
“I am obviously pretty happy after that,” he said. “I played great all day and got pretty hot on the back nine. I had a couple of nice ones to finish and it was just a good day all round.
“This is my fourth event in Europe, and last week at The Open was a great week. I played great in the last round and I’ve managed to keep that going here.
For a while I've put some good scores on the board without shooting a really low one - today everything finally came together
“I felt that every part of my game has been really close to firing well. For a while I’ve put some good scores on the board without shooting a really low one.
“Today I saw everything finally come together. The putter worked and my ball striking was good, so I’m really pleased with my game right now and looking forward to the weekend.”
Coles must have thought his eight under par 63 from the morning would be good enough for the overnight lead, a fine bogey-free round after he started on the tenth.
The experienced Englishman currently sits 20th in the Road to Oman Rankings, largely helped by his tied second place at last month’s SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge hosted by Macdonald Hotels and Resorts. A win here would boost his bid for the top 15, and with it European Tour qualification for next season.
“I’m very pleased,” he said. “I haven’t been playing too badly in last few weeks and then I had a week off, which was nice.
“When I started today it was steady and my putting was good, and it saved me a few times early on when I didn’t quite hit such good shots.
“Then on our back nine it started get a little bit better, I had more chances and my putting was still very good so it all came together.”
Two shots behind Coles is Connor Arendell on six under par, the American bidding to go one better than his joint runner-up finish in this event last year.
Home hopes will focus on the two Frenchmen, Adrien Bernadet and David Bobrowski, one shot further back on five under par, alongside Denmark’s Andreas Hartø.
Last year’s winner Andrew Johnston went on to top the 2014 Challenge Tour Rankings while joint runner-up Byeong-hun An also graduated and earned his maiden European Tour win at the BMW PGA Championship in May, achievements this week’s field will be looking to emulate.
The inaugural winner of this event, American Brinson Paolini, is also back in France and gunning for a repeat of his 2013 triumph, but an opening 72 left him ten shots adrift after round one.