Peter Lawrie’s bogey-free round of 66 was good enough to give him the first round lead at the Czech Open.
The Irishman was six under par after playing what he described as “lovely golf” at Prosper Golf Resort to lead by one shot from compatriot Damien McGrane, Spain’s Pedro Oriol and France’s Victor Dubuisson.
“I had no bogeys, which always helps,” said the former Open de España winner.
“Plus I made a couple of nice up-and-downs when I really needed them, on the second and third, which were my 11th and 12th holes. Other than that, I played lovely, solid golf, and every chance I gave myself from short range, I holed it – although I missed about a ten footer at the last.”
The 37 year old, a runner-up here to Peter Hanson 12 months ago, started on the back nine and birdied the 11th and 14th holes to turn in 34.
He pitched to six feet at the par five first for another gain, recorded consecutive birdies at the fifth and sixth holes – the latter from 25 feet – and rounded things off with an approach to five feet at the eighth.
“The course is playing totally differently this year to last year,” he added. “It’s much softer. You’re hitting your driver on pretty much every hole, and the ball’s not running out in any shape or form. The par fives are all out of reach for me, so my short game has to be good, and you have to be quite accurate around here.”
McGrane also had six birdies, with the best coming courtesy of a 40 foot putt on the seventh hole, but unlike Lawrie he registered a bogey at the 17th.
The former Volvo China Open winner began with back-to-back birdies, although it was two gains in his last three holes that propelled the 40 year old into contention.
“The scoring conditions are perfect, so it’s possible to create a lot of chances,” he said. “But creating them is one thing, converting them quite another. So to make six birdies and just the one bogey was very pleasing.
“The fairways are still very soft, so there’s no run on them at all. But every day the condition of the course is getting better, as it dries out. It’s probably going to be a low scoring week because the greens are in fantastic condition, so I’ll have to keep making those birdies.”
Rookie Dubuisson’s best finish so far on The European Tour came when he was ninth in Qatar, but the young Frenchman gave himself every chance of bettering that with four birdies in five holes around the turn helping him to a 67.
“It was a very good round,” said the 21 year old Qualifying School graduate. “I don’t always get off to the best of starts, so I’m very happy.
“It helped that my caddie and I arrived on Monday, so I played two rounds of golf before starting the tournament today, which was a big help because it meant I knew the course very well before teeing off this morning.
“I don't think I missed a fairway all day. I holed a ten metre putt on the seventh, and I haven't holed a putt from that distance for about four months – after that, I knew it was going to be my day!”
Dubuisson’s fellow Qualifying School graduate Oriol has found the going tough so far at the top level, making just two cuts so far this season.
But he mixed six birdies with a single bogey as he looks to improve on his season-best finish of 49th in Johannesburg.
Oriol’s round of 67 was all the more remarkable given that he played with a borrowed set of clubs after his went missing en route to the Czech Republic.
He explained: “I took a flight from Madrid to London and changed onto the charter flight to the Czech Republic, but my clubs never made it here. They still hadn’t arrived by this morning, and I was worried about my round, because even though I practised very hard for the past two weeks my confidence has been quite low, because I haven’t played well this season.
“The clubs I got from the Mizuno truck were a bit short for me, so I wasn’t feeling too confident. But then I go and shot a round of 67, which just goes to show what a crazy game golf is. I’m not sure I’m going to switch back to my own clubs now even if they arrive!”
Shane Lowry shot 68 on a good day for the Irish contingent, and he was joined by Swede Mikael Lundberg in a share of fifth place.
There was also a marked improvement for England’s Nick Dougherty. The 29 year old has missed 20 consecutive cuts so far this season, but a one under par 71 gave the three-time European Tour champion a great chance to earn his first cheque of the campaign.