France's Grégory Havret made a happy return to Scotland as the Johnnie Walker Championships at Gleneagles began.
The defending champion was joined by Scot Steven O'Hara, Sweden’s Âke Nilsson and Australian Wade Ormsby in the first round clubhouse lead after all compiled four under par rounds of 68 at The Gleneagles Hotel.
Havret, whose victory last year was overshadowed by the race for places in Europe's Ryder Cup Team, got to five under, then had bogeys at the fifth and seventh, but finished by picking up another shot.
One of his earlier birdies came on the 12th, which because of Wednesday's heavy and prolonged rain had been reduced from a 445 yard par four to a driveable 280 yard one.
Last year the hole was a par five, but it was decided to change it with The 2014 Ryder Cup in mind.
“My driving was really, really consistent and that was definitely the key,” said Havret. “It's obviously a very good test as a driving course, and if you don't miss any fairways, you have a good chance to go low, and that's what happened.”
Former Walker Cup player O'Hara, who became a father three weeks ago, birdied five of the last eight holes for his 68, while in stark contrast Ormsby reached seven under and then double bogeyed the short 17th and dropped another shot on the par five last.
“I slept in the spare room last night,” said O’Hara, who at 181st on The Race to Dubai needs a strong finish to the season in order to secure his card for next season. “The wee one is only three weeks old, so he needs to be fed and winded every three to four hours - it's quite tiring trying to feed him and all that. So I had a decent sleep last night for the first time in a while.
“I felt like I could have birdied every hole on the back nine, but at least I got a few. I feel like I'm rolling the ball well, but just holing nothing. At least I holed a few today.”
Ormsby admitted his performance over the closing holes had been far from perfect.
He said: “You never want to finish a round like that. Doesn't matter what you're shooting, but when you have it going, it's a little disappointing. Four under is a decent score, a decent start.”
Meanwhile Nilsson was left to rue consecutive bogeys st the tenth and 11th.
He said: “I missed a short putt on the first and I three-putted the second, and I felt I was playing good, just two stupid bogeys. I gave myself chances, and three-putted 12, as well, when the short tee was up in front.”
One off the pace after completing their opening rounds are Havret’s compatriot Christian Cévaër, Wales’ Jamie Donaldson, Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik, Englishman Danny Willett and Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin.
Out on the course Ryder Cup star Søren Hansen eagled the par five ninth as he moved into the lead at five under through 11 holes.
He was joined by former Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie, who had earlier matched Hansen’s three at the ninth and birdied the 12th to go five under.
Spain’s Santiago Luna and the English duo of Simon Khan and Anthony Wall were four under as they played their back nines.