Jamie Donaldson outlined his Ryder Cup credentials with an imperious display to claim the first round lead on a dramatic opening day at the D+D REAL Czech Masters in Prague.
The Welshman, who currently sits in one of the automatic qualification places for Europe's side at Gleneagles but is not yet assured of a debut in the biennial contest, fired a six under par 66 at Albatross Golf Resort to lead by one from Sweden's Mikael Lundberg.
Two of Donaldson's main rivals for a place in Paul McGinley's team, Scot Stephen Gallacher and Dutchman Joost Luiten, both fired two under par rounds of 70.
Donaldson, who would in all likelihood secure his Ryder Cup place with a top-seven finish, said: “It was a good day.
“I played nicely - the course was playing tough early on, quite windy and then died down late but that finish is pretty tough, so I'm happy with the result.
“I’ve got a bit of a cold but you just get on with it. I don’t feel too bad considering but I’m here and playing nicely and more of the same tomorrow.
“I know what I've got to do this week so it’s just a case of going out and doing it. It’s another golf tournament where you’ve got to go out there and play as well as you can and content to win the tournament. I’m in a position to do that now; I just need more of the same over the next three rounds.
“You can’t go too heavily into it, you have to go out there and it’s just one shot at a time like any other week. There are other things circling around this result but you have to get on with it and keep doing the same things you’ve been doing every week.”
After four birdies in an outward 33, Donaldson dropped a second shot of the day when he found a greenside bunker at the 11th.
But a birdie at the long next, an approach to eight feet at the 14th and two closing birdies – the latter from ten feet – sealed the overnight lead for Donaldson.
Lundberg, a winner in Austria two months ago, was five under through 13 holes but could only par his way in for a 67.
“I played really steady and really solid,” said Lundberg. “I only made one mistake today and made some putts so it doesn’t get much better than that.
“This year, I've worked with my new coach and we made big progress, there’s way more stability and control in the game. We make everything more simple so I'm very happy with what’s going on now, it feels nice.
“The hardest thing to do is keep it simple but you try to take away all unnecessary movements and make everything more simple but it’s not that easy to do.”
American Peter Uihlein looked a likely overnight leader when a chip-in at the 12th gave him one of four successive birdies, but the former Madeira Islands Open winner ran up a triple bogey at the short 16th to fall to two under.
England’s Kenneth Ferrie had gone on an even more spectacular scoring burst when he achieved the rare feat of birdieing the first six holes of the tournament, but a bogey at the seventh was one of three dropped shots in a 68 that left him part of a ten-way tie for third.
“I didn’t see a great deal of birdies in practise but obviously I seemed to find them all early today,” joked three-time European Tour winner Ferrie, who is playing on an invite after losing his card two years ago. “Six birdies to start the day is always nice!
“They were all reasonable chances and shots to the greens and taking it from there. Overall it wasn’t too bad; I'm disappointed not to finish at least where I was or push on but it’s tough out there, definitely not an easy course.
“You do pinch yourself a little. You make a birdie at the par five and that’s fair enough, wedge at the second and you make birdie, just missed out on a hole in one at three, then a wedge close at five and a long putt at five.
“The thing is you know it’s going to end eventually, you’re not going to keep it going for 18 holes unfortunately - it’s a little bit unreal but it’s always nice, you take them when you get them.
“The front nine there are a lot of wedge holes where if you can wedge it well and hole a few putts you’re can do a lot but the back nine is a little trickier, there are a couple more funky greens.
“Obviously I had a couple of rough years and lost my card and haven’t managed to get it back yet so I'm playing whenever I can, as a past champion of events and late invites. It’s my own doing, I didn’t play well enough two years ago or at Q-School and I haven’t been able to get on a sustained run to get back out.
“It’s nice that when I've been out this year I’ve proven I still can play. I played alright in Austria for a couple of days and okay for a round in Barcelona - it’s nice to know I'm still capable out here.”