Graeme Storm reflected on his struggles in 2012 after surging to the top of the leaderboard on day one of the KLM Open.
A faultless 63 enabled the Englishman to reach seven under at Hilversumsche GC, putting him two clear of Martin Kaymer, who enjoyed a welcome return to form ahead of The Ryder Cup, Fabrizio Zanotti and Raphaël Jacquelin.
Kaymer’s European team-mate Peter Hanson was one of six players tied for fifth on four under, while Nicolas Colsaerts - one of José María Olazábal’s Captain’s picks - birdied the last to go round in 70.
Storm currently lies 114th in The Race to Dubai and faces a battle to retain his European Tour card following a disappointing campaign.
He has also been forced to cope with tragedy away from the course, with his grandfather passing away prior to June's BMW International Open.
"I've had a tough run and it's all been a bit of a struggle. I've just not been enjoying it," Storm explained.
"I lost my grandfather on the Wednesday morning of Germany and since then I have really struggled. I kind of kept it to myself what happened but it hit me really hard.
"You can get punished round here but I played the best I have probably played all year. I'm just happy to get a round like that under my belt after recent months."
Focussing on the details of his opening round, Storm added: “I made the birdies when I gave myself the chances and got up and down when I missed the greens.
“The golf course here is fantastic - the best I have ever seen it - so you have to hit it straight and that is what I did.
“There is still a lot of play for this season. Keeping my card is the goal. At the start of the season it was getting into the top 60 on The Race to Dubai but I'm a long way from that so my goal now is to keep my card.”
Kaymer and Jacquelin each benefited from eagles at the par five 12th, although the former - champion here in 2010 - insists there is still hard work ahead as he seeks to recapture his best form.
“Two years ago when I won here was very nice but that was a period of time I could have played golf with my eyes closed,” the German explained.
“Now is a different time when I need to work and it takes a lot of energy and a lot of concentration. I really need to focus on the things on the range. Two years ago it was more automatic.”
Zanotti, who tied for second when Kaymer triumphed at this venue, managed to avoid any dropped shots today, while Simon Dyson - three times a winner of this event and the defending champion - began the week with a 70 that featured an eagle on 18.