Jamie Donaldson (Getty Images)
Jamie Donaldson gave himself the platform to launch a bid for his first European Tour title as a two under par 70 gave the Welshman a share of the first round clubhouse lead at the Ballantine’s Championship.
The 36 year old, a perennial contender with 32 top-ten finishes in his 250 events on The European Tour to date, continued the good form that saw him finish third in Morocco last month with four birdies and two bogeys at Blackstone Golf Club.
That left Donaldson level with Scotland’s Richie Ramsay, England's Mark Foster and Korean Jung Ji-ho as challenging greens and swirling winds at the Icheon course prevented low scoring.
Donaldson started his round at the tenth and got off to a flyer courtesy of a four iron approach to within a foot for an opening birdie.
Another gain came at the 16th from six feet, but he birdied the long 18th after pushing his drive right into the trees.
Back-to-back birdies from ten feet at the fourth and fifth gave Donaldson the outright lead, but he three-putted from the fringe on the seventh for his second bogey of the day.
“I played nicely,” he said. “It is tricky. I made a lot of good up and downs but overall a pretty tough day.
“You've just got to put it in position off the tees and see where it falls. One of the easiest holes was 18, and I bogeyed. You have to play well and put it in position.”
Former South African Open champion Ramsay overcame a double bogey seven at the long fifth with five birdies and one other bogey.
“I putted beautifully,” said the 28 year old. “The greens are really, really nice. It still is tricky because you get gusts of wind.
“When I made a mistake, I got up and down and I managed to convert a few opportunities.
“All in all it was a good day, but it was really getting tough out there. There’s lots of positives from it, and I drove the ball well. But ultimately, I putted nicely, which is great to see and long may it continue.”
Donaldson’s playing partner Foster, whose only European Tour title in 300 events came back in 2003, had four birdies and two bogeys in his round.
“I've not seen any scores, but the wind is wicked,” he said. “It is just all over. It's not the strength of the wind - it's funnelling, and you just hit it out there and hope it does what you want. Ball flight is everything, really.”
Jung, who birdied the last for a round of 70, added: “My iron shots went very well. I had one bogey and three birdies, and the one bogey came from a three putt, so overall I thought the game went very well.”
In the clubhouse six players were tied for fifth on one under, amongst them Ryder Cup Vice Captain Paul McGinley.
The Irishman was joined by World Number 12 Adam Scott, South African George Coetzee, England’s Oliver Fisher, India’s Anirban Lahiri and another of the home contingent, Lee Tae-kyu.
As the afternoon session developed France’s Victor Dubuisson defied the increasing winds with six birdies in his first ten holes to reach four under par, and sit two in front of the clubhouse leaders.
Koreans Kim Do-hoon and compatriot Lee Dong-min were next best on the course – they were two under through 12 and nine holes respectively.
Dubuisson had to take a penalty drop at the fourth, then fired his third over the green, chipped to ten feet and missed the bogey putt.
After dropping two shots the 22 year old responded with a birdie at the next to retake the lead, albeit with only a one shot advantage.