Michael Hoey and Martin Wiegele share the spoils after day one at the Challenge de España following rounds of 67, five under par, at Izki Golf.
The duo carded bogey-free front nines before finishing strong to leapfrog a congested leaderboard to take the lead by one shot at the end of round one in Spain.
After missing the opening event counting towards the European Challenge Tour Rankings in Turkey due to illness last week, Wiegele showed no signs of time away from the course as he birdied the third and fifth holes en route to a blemish-free front nine.
The Austrian made back-to-back gains on the 14th and 15th before carding a final birdie on the 17th to surpass the morning leaders and set the target at five under par.
Hoey, playing two groups behind Wiegele, continued his surge to the top following his one under par front nine with a gain on the 12th to close the gap on the pacesetters. With five holes to play, the five-time European Tour winner carded back-to-back birdies before dropping his only shot of the day. However, he responded with two more gains to join Wiegele in the lead at the end of round one.
With four players a shot behind and 13 a further stroke back, Wiegele was pleased to post a good round, especially in testing conditions.
“I’m very pleased with a round like this, especially on a tough and tricky course like Izki,” he said. “I managed to get around without a bogey which is always fun, especially on a course like this. I really enjoyed today.
“I was grinding well today. Hopefully I can keep that up tomorrow and play a little bit better than today and hit a few more excellent shots.”
Hoey finished in a share of fifth place at last year’s Challenge de España, however, he knows he needs to maintain the intensity if he is to succeed this season.
“I haven’t led a Challenge Tour event after round one for a couple of years, so I’m very happy,” he said.
“I need to be aggressive going into tomorrow. Last year I had some good results – finished 25th on the Order of Merit – but you need really big finishes.
“The greens are really good and they’re really quick and they’re breaking more. If you hit a putt to the high side it can die, so the putt on 18 always had a chance. The surfaces are really, really good and it’s enjoyable to putt on them.”
Sebastian Garcia Rodriguez leads the Spanish charge as the 30-year-old carded two eagles amongst four birdies and four bogeys for a round of 68, four under par. The Madrid native sits one stroke off the leaders alongside Enrico Di Nitto of Italy, Scotland’s Ewen Ferguson and Englishman Ben Stow.