Spaniard Alvaro Velasco stormed into the lead in the first round of the Madeira Islands Open – Portugal with a superb eight under par 64 at Santo da Serra.
The 30 year old, who won the 2010 Challenge Tour Rankings, had nine birdies and a bogey to lead by two from five players – English trio Tommy Fleetwood, Ben Parker and Oliver Wilson, Swedes Magnus A Carlsson and Joakim Lagergren and Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen.
Velasco, who lost his card last season after finishing 127th in The Race to Dubai, nine spots from safety, said: “I was consistent all day and I putted very well. I gave myself many good birdie chances and managed to hole a lot of them.
“If you hit it in the right spots the course is quite easy, but if you’re in the wrong place it’s easy to get in trouble.
“I had a good week in Sicily, where I was ninth, but I can’t remember the last time I made such a good start to a tournament. My putter has been working well lately and I’m feeling confident.
“I’ve played this course once before, in 2008, and I was fifth, so I have good memories of it, although this year it is playing completely differently as it is so firm and different shots are required.”
Fleetwood’s opening effort was a far cry from his first round 80 in last week’s Reale Seguros Open de España, which he admits was the worst he has played since turning professional two years ago.
“It was a pretty stress-free round today,” said the 21 year old rookie, who topped last season’s Challenge Tour Rankings. “I missed a few chances but overall I played well. I’ve been saying for a while that I’m very close to playing great, and it’s certainly nice to open with a round that isn’t 80.
“The longest putt I had for birdie all round was about four feet, so I hit it close and holed out well, but didn’t hole any long ones.
“Today the course was very much for the taking. It doesn’t get much easier than that. There were a few pins tucked away but it’s the best chance of scoring you’re going to get so it was good to take advantage.
“It’s nice to be in the mix early on. Three more rounds of 66 would be nice. My swing felt great today so I hope I can build on this over the next few days.”
Half the field for the €675,000 event is made up of Challenge Tour players, and Madsen took advantage of the increased prize fund with his fine start. The 24 year old was similarly explosive at the beginning of his last tournament, carding a 64 at the Barclays Kenya Open, only to fade away at the weekend.
“It’s very exciting and it’s nice to get off to a great start, but it's a tough field and there’s a long way to go,” said Madsen, who shares the same home club as Thomas Björn. “Hopefully I can still be up there on Sunday, but you never know in golf.
“I made a great start in Kenya a few weeks ago and was leading after two rounds, but didn't handle myself well over the weekend, so hopefully I have learned from that experience."