Jamie Donaldson made an impressive start in search of consecutive European Tour wins, sharing the early lead in the Omega European Masters before dropping a shot at his last hole that allowed Gareth Maybin, Tommy Fleetwood and Graeme Storm to move in front.
Donaldson and Maybin had shared the lead on six under until the Welshman conceded just his second shot of the day on the ninth, a par five, at the stunning Crans-sur-Sierre Golf Club.
Northern Ireland’s Maybin, who has never won on The European Tour, then dropped his only shot of the round at the par-three eighth before making his seventh birdie for a six-under 64.
Playing for his European Tour card next season, Maybin, 124th in The Race to Dubai, said: “I played really solid golf all day – as well as I’ve played in a very long time.
“I posted some decent scores in recent weeks without playing all that well, but today was a different story. I hit the ball very well and got my just rewards, so I’m, happy.”
Fleetwood, whose sole European Tour victory came in the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, had just completed a 64 of his own.
The Englishman, who like Donaldson, Maybin and Storm, started on the back nine, eagled the first but double bogeyed the fourth while otherwise carding seven birdies and a bogey.
Fleetwood said: “It’s obviously never nice to start with a three-putt, then I holed a good par putt on the 11th, so I could’ve been two over after two.
“But the birdie on 15 got me going, and from there on in I played really well and felt good about my game.
“I shot five under on my back nine, which is the front nine, and didn’t really have to hole any putts of note.
“When you’re playing that well you just want to make the most of it, and luckily I managed to do that today.”
Fleetwood and Maybin were joined on six under by England’s Storm, whose sole European Tour triumph was at the 2007 Open de France ALSTOM. He closed with his second bogey immediately followed by his eighth birdie.
Donaldson, who won at the D+D REAL Czech Masters in his previous appearance, had eased to six under par thanks to four birdies in five holes as his round drew to a close.
The Welshman, fourth in The Race to Dubai, eagled the 15th, a par five, to turn on two under. Having birdied the third with a superb putt from 25 feet, he then made three consecutive gains from the fifth to overtake previous leader Seve Benson.
Donaldson eventually joined Benson, named after the legendary Seve Ballesteros who won this tournament three times and remodelled the course in 1999, Michael Hoey and David Lynn in the clubhouse on five under.
On his eagle, Donaldson said: “It’s a tough flag on the back right, and I actually pulled my second shot slightly. But if you’re going to miss, you have to miss on the left side.
“So it was a good miss if you like, and I left myself with a fairly straightforward chip which I managed to hole, so that was a bit of a bonus.”
On his four gains in five holes, he added: “I went on a good run there, and holed a few nice putts. It was obviously disappointing to bogey the last, and I missed a few shots coming home. But overall I have to be very pleased with a round of 65 to start.”
Defending champion Thomas Björn, seeking to emulate Ballesteros by winning the event for the third time, finished one shot back on four under.
Björn said: “I didn’t play well early on, but then I hit a couple of really good shots which brought two birdies and settled me down. So it wasn’t the best of the best today, but it was good enough to get me off to a pretty decent start.”