Nicolas Colsaerts (Getty Images)
Nicolas Colsaerts boosted his Ryder Cup chances with a brilliant first round display at The Open Championship which left him just one off the lead.
Adam Scott’s early six under 64 left the Australian a shot clear after the opening day at Royal Lytham & St Annes, but Belgian Colsaerts and 1999 Champion Paul Lawrie both shot 65s to be only one back on five under.
The cream certainly rose to the top, with seven Major Champions tied for sixth or better, but Colsaerts and Scott are both yet to join that exclusive club.
Currently 12th in The Ryder Cup points list – ten players qualify automatically before Captain José María Olazábal adds two picks – the 29 year old won the Volvo World Match Play title earlier in the season.
Colsaerts holed his approach to the second from 200 yards with an eight iron for eagle and, after bogeying the next, picked up four further gains on a day of largely benign conditions.
“It was really, really good,” said The European Tour’s longest hitter. “I had it on a needle early on - straight at the flag on the first, straight on the flag at the second and holed it, which was a bit of a treat.
“It was just a lot of very good shots in succession early on, so it really got the momentum of the round going, and just didn't really hit any bad shots today.
“When you play this well, you go through the elements without thinking how hard they get. I was just playing really well and I was just looking at my targets and just trying to stick to my plan and I did exactly that."
Scotland’s Lawrie may have fired himself back into Open Championship contention for the first time since he won 13 years ago, but his golf-mad sons were not there having opted to stay at home to play themselves.
The 1999 victor at Carnoustie equalled his lowest score in the championship with a five under par 65.
But he was relying on his teenage boys Craig - who caddied for him as he missed the cut at last week's Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open - and Michael, both good golfers in their own right, watching his heroics at home on television.
"There were quite a few junior opens back home this week so both of them wanted to stay and play in them, which is fair enough," he said.
"They're both now decent players. It's a big deal and they wanted to stay home.
"But the courses are shot over there with the rain so they've maybe had a bit of a disaster by staying at home.
"But they've watched it on the television, I'm sure."
Lawrie, who came from a Major record ten shots behind on the final day to triumph in a play-off at Carnoustie, received a warm welcome from the galleries.
"I heard my name called a lot today, which down in England is a bit of a surprise," he added.
"It's nice. It's The Open and everyone is here to support the British players as well as everyone else.
"I hit some nice shots for them, which was good."
Lawrie, who has missed seven Open cuts since winning, was three under after five holes having chipped in for two of his six birdies and he holed a long putt on the sixth to save par.
"It was probably the strangest start of my career, the first six holes - I didn't really hit many good shots and I was three under," added Lawrie, who is in contention to make the European Team to face the United States at Medinah in late September.
"I chipped in twice and holed it from off the green. We get enough bad luck so it is nice when it goes your way now and again.
"Obviously after that I hit some really nice shots, played some solid golf, and ended up with a good score.
"I've got a little bit of work to do before that (Ryder Cup qualification) happens.
"There's still four to five weeks to go and I'm not a guarantee yet so I need to finish off this week and play as well as I can."
Scott, who reckons he can remember every shot of Greg Norman's closing 64 to win The Open at Sandwich 19 years ago, now has one of his own to sit alongside it in the record books.
The 31 year old has recorded just one top ten in 12 previous appearances in The Open, had the chance to create history when he stood seven under with two to play, therefore needing one more birdie for the first round of 62 in any Major.
However, a bogey on the 18th after a pulled tee shot meant the World Number 13 had to settle for equalling the lowest Open round at Lytham, which was set by Tom Lehman on his way to The Claret Jug in 1996.
"I know there's never been a 62 and when I was waiting to use the bathroom going to the 17th tee I did a look at the leaderboard and realised it was a par-70," the World Number 13 said.
"And I also probably then realised that I wasn't going to be the guy to shoot 62. It's one of those things that you don't want to go through your mind, thinking about your final score and stuff like that. So I got rid of that quickly and got on to playing the 17th, but unfortunately dropped one up the last."
Sharing second place with Lawrie and Colsaerts was former Masters Tournament champion Zach Johnson on five under, with Johnson looking for a second win in succession after claiming the John Deere Classic on Sunday.
Northern Ireland’s US Open winners Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy, Masters Tournament champion Bubba Watson, and three-Major winner Ernie Els were all on three under, as was former World Number One Tiger Woods.
The 14-time Major Champion moved into the outright lead with four birdies in his first seven holes, but there were no further gains and he bogeyed the 15th.
World Number One Luke Donald was one under par before dropping his only stroke of the day on the last for a 70, the same as two-time winner Padraig Harrington, but World Number Three Lee Westwood managed only a 73 and defending champion Darren Clarke could do no better than 76.
At 62, Tom Watson continues to do amazing things. Three years after being one putt away from capturing a record sixth title in the event - he would have been the oldest Major Champion by 11 years - he shot 71.