Victor Riu produced the best performance of his professional career to take a two-shot lead after Round One of the Andalucía Costa del Sol Match Play 9.
The Frenchman, who joined the paid ranks 11 years ago, made the perfect start at La Cala Resort with three successive birdies and went on to pick up three further gains over his next six holes to reach the turn in 30.
The 32 year old, who is a former European Challenge Tour champion after triumphing at the 2013 Swiss Challenge, went on to birdie four of his next five holes, leaving himself with a fighting chance of becoming only the third player in Challenge Tour history to card a round of 59.
Despite not reaching that magic number, Riu was delighted with his efforts, and is full of confidence going into the rest of the week after his bogey-free score of 61.
“It was a really good day,” he said. “Everything was really nice and it was really special to produce the best score of my career here.
“Coming into this week my long game had been really good but I was struggling a lot with my putting. I worked really hard on my putting over the weekend and it felt as though the hard work was worth it.
“I was also really happy today because my wedge game was also really strong. The course here is tricky and the pins were very difficult. My wedges are normally not the best part of my game but I used them really well today.
“When I realised I was ten under after 15 holes I did have a slight think about the 59, but I just tried to take things shot by shot and not worry too much about the scoring – I am still really happy to have been ten under today.”
While pleased with the outstanding start he has made on the Spanish coast, Riu is aware that it will be all to play for at the weekend – where the top 32 players will fight it out in a series of nine-hole match play contests.
“It is really exciting to play in this tournament,” he said. “You do not get too many opportunities as a professional to play match play events – except the Ryder Cup.
“I always really enjoyed playing in one-on-one matches as an amateur, and although that was more than ten years ago I think it will suit me.
“I have made a really good start today – so I should hopefully make it through to the weekend!”
Two adrift of Riu is England’s Charlie Ford, who made two eagles and four birdies on his way to signing for an eight under par round of 63.
Two further back on six under par is Germany’s Julian Kunzenbacher, who finished second on the satellite Pro Golf Tour’s Order of Merit last season.
South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout celebrated his 23rd birthday in style, carding a three under par round of 68 to sit inside the top 15 after the first round in Andalucía.