Peter Lawrie (Getty Images)
Peter Lawrie led an Irish assault at the Czech Open as he set the first round clubhouse target.
Three weeks after being the best-placed home player at the Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland in a share of eighth, Lawrie carded a six under par 66.
That put him one ahead of compatriot Damien McGrane and two clear of Shane Lowry as the leaderboard took on a distinctly emerald feel.
Starting on the back nine, Lawrie birdied the 11th and 13th to turn in 34 before picking up four further shots on the way in to sign for a bogey-free round.
“I played lovely golf today,” he said. “No bogeys, which always helps. A couple of nice up-and-downs when I really needed them - on two and three - my 11th and 12th.
“Other than that, I played lovely, solid golf, and every chance I gave myself from short range, I holed it - though I missed about a ten footer at the last.”
McGrane must have sensed a good round was there for the taking when he 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,” said the former Volvo China Open winner. “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.”
Lowry was joined in a tie for third by Swede Mikael Lundberg.
The former Irish Open winner - who has missed five cuts out of seven since finishing fourth at the BMW PGA Championship - was delighted to return to form with three birdies, a solitary bogey and an eagle at the long fifth.
“Since I had a good finish at Wentworth I haven't really done too much, and that's purely down to my putting, because I've been playing quite nicely from tee to green,” said Lowry. “When you're not putting well, it tends to affect the rest of your game, because you tend to try to force the issue and attack the pins too much.
“So it was pleasing to roll a few putts in today, and I just hope it continues for the rest of the week now.
“I saw that Peter and Damien were right up there coming down the last, so it was a very nice surprise. Let's hope we're battling it out on the final day, although there's a long way to go.”
Scots Gary Orr and Richie Ramsay were joined by Spaniard José Manuel Lara, Swede Oskar Henningsson and Italy’s Lorenzo Gagli in a tie for fifth on three under.
There also appeared to be some light at the end of the tunnel for England’s Nick Dougherty.
The 29 year old three-time European Tour winner has missed the cut in all 20 starts this season, but a one under par 71 gave him a great chance to earn his first cheque of the season.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the best showing from the afternoon starters was coming from yet another Irishman.
Last year's Ryder Cup Vice Captain Paul McGinley, whose only top-40 finish of the season came when he was 14th at the Barclays Scottish Open, eagled the fifth as Lowry had and picked up two further birdies to be four under with seven to play.
Swede Fredrik Ohlsson, meanwhile, rattled off four consecutive birdies from the 15th to turn in a four under 32.