Raphael Jacquelin (Getty Images)
Raphaël Jacquelin was in buoyant mood after starting his Alstom Open de France campaign with a three under par 68.
The Frenchman’s effort left him only three shots behind early pacesetter Christian Nilsson as he looks to replicate Thomas Levet’s achievement of 12 months ago and win his home national Open.
After starting on the back nine, Jacquelin turned in 33 then holed a 20 foot birdie putt at the first.
A further gain at the second took him to four under, before a bogey at the fourth blemished his card slightly.
“I think three under here on Le Golf National, I'll take it, I’m very happy with it,” said the former Sicilian Open champion.
“I saved a lot of pars, but I think the set-up of the course is like that.
“It's probably pretty much the same as usual from the tee, which I think makes it easier for me because even when you hit the ball in the rough, you're going to lay up anyway and you're not going to try to hit the greens.
“All of the French players want to put their name on this trophy. It's been a long way to go, so three rounds to go, I'm just going to try to stay focussed on my game as I did today. If the putter is hot like today, I might be up there.”
Levet and another former French winner of the title, Jean-François Remesy, shot one over par 72s and face a battle to make the halfway cut.
But Julien Guerrier put himself in the hunt with a two under par 69, and Edouard Dubois, Damien Perrier and former US Open runner-up Grégory Havret all carded rounds of 70.