Miguel Angel Jiménez, Christian Nilsson and Anders Romero set the early clubhouse target at six under par during round one of the Omega European Masters.
All three players carded rounds of 65 at the picturesque Crans-sun-Sierre course in the Swiss Alps to establish an early one shot advantage over Sweden’s Johan Edfors, Australian Marcus Fraser and England's Chris Wood.
This is the first qualifying event for next year's Ryder Cup match against the Americans at The Celtic Manor Resort and even at 45 Jiménez has ambitions to keep his place in Europe's Team.
He and Romero, back from the States after failing to qualify for the FedEx Cup play-offs, were playing partners and they had 13 birdies between them.
Jiménez had the edge in that department, but also had the only dropped shot at the difficult short 16th.
“This is my 21st year here but i have never won. I finished second a few times and a lot of top tens but never gone all the way,” said the Spaniard. “I do feel comfortable here. It's a nice place, very relaxing and it's a golf course where you have to hit the ball straight and control the game overall.”
Romero added: “I haven't been playing well for a while now but i seem to have rediscovered my confidence and i am really happy with six under.”
Challenge Tour graduate Nilsson carded six birdies in a bogey-free round, but revealed afterwards he had been battling a pain in his appendix all day.
“When I came to the course this morning I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to play because I had a lot of pain in my appendix area,” he said. “I'm not sure what it is yet but the doctor told me that I should be alright to play so I tried.
“The first couple of holes weren't great but it got better as I went on and I just hope that I can play tomorrow. I have had the pain since yesterday - I couldn't practice at all yesterday and then on the range this morning it was quite bad but I tried to play and it worked well.”
Wood burst out of the blocks in superb fashion - but then reckoned tiredness caught up with him.
At six under par after just 11 holes the 21 year old from Bristol, third in The Open Championship in July, led by two.
But Wood covered the remaining seven holes in one over and slipped one behind Spaniard Jiménez, Sweden’s Nilsson and Argentina's Romero by one.
After injuring his back during the US PGA Championship - his first Major in America - last month the six foot five inch Wood has been working hard on his fitness.
"I've had two 12-hour days here and I got a little bit tired towards the end I think," he said. "It's only going to help me and it's got to be done - my goals are long-term."
Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, a member of The European Tour and the Asian Tour, advanced to five under through 12 holes in the first event co-sanctioned by both tours on European soil.
Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy, joint third in the US PGA Championship, were among the late starters and McIlroy, needing to win to go top of The Race to Dubai, got off to a real flyer.The 20 year old Northern Irishman, who missed an 18 inch putt in losing a play-off a year ago, might have expected to birdie the par five opener, but holing his approach to the 437 yard second for an eagle two was a real bonus.
McIlroy was immediately only three off the pace, while Westwood also birdied the first.
Graeme McDowell, another member of Nick Faldo's Team last year, was round in 68, one better than playing partner Darren Clarke.
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