(Reuters) - Irishman Peter Lawrie upstaged some of the European Tour's biggest names by taking an early one-shot lead in the BMW Championship first round on Thursday.
The 31 year old Dubliner, who teed off in the first group of the day at Wentworth Club, holed out three times from off the green on his way to a five under par 67.
"It was a great draw to be off first this morning and the greens were in perfect condition," Lawrie said after mixing six birdies with three bogeys and an eagle-two at the eighth.
"You've got to take advantage of it and that's what I did today. I played lovely."
The Irishman finished a stroke in front of Australians Nick O'Hern and Wade Ormsby, who birdied the last three holes.
However, World Number Three and Wentworth resident Ernie Els, chasing his fourth European title of the year, was among several heavyweight players who struggled to make an early impact.
South African Els returned a 73 after two bogeys in the first seven holes while Britain's Paul Casey, one of 11 European Ryder Cup players in action this week, battled to a 78.
"The greens here are beautiful but I just didn't putt very well today," said three-times Major winner Els. "My game has certainly got room for improvement."
Ian Woosnam, the 1991 Masters Champion and Europe's Ryder Cup Captain for next year, struggled to a 75 but former European Number One Lee Westwood, boosted by two closing birdies, returned a 72.
Three-times champion Colin Montgomerie, who needs to finish no worse than 16th this week to qualify for next month's US Open, birdied the last for a 71, a score matched in the group behind by Denmark's Thomas Björn.
British Ryder Cup player Luke Donald, competing in the event for the first time, was on track for an impressive opening round before falling foul of the par-five 18th.
The 27 year old Englishman was just a stroke off the lead going down the last but struck his fairway wood second shot well right into trees before running up a double-bogey seven for a 71.
Irishman Lawrie, who is determined to win a maiden European Tour title this year, was delighted with his opening 67.
"I've got off to a good start here and I'll try to consolidate that tomorrow with another good one and go on from there," he said. "My goal for the year is to win a European Tour event.
Lawrie added he was a much changed player since being voted Sir Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year in 2003.
"I think I was wet behind the ears then, and I missed an awful lot of cuts that year," he said. "Now I'm a little bit more seasoned."
US Open champion Retief Goosen, World Number 14 Darren Clarke and twice US Masters winner José Maria Olazábal were among the later first-round starters in the 150-strong field.