Ross Fisher (Getty Images)
Ross Fisher hopes victory at the Portugal Masters can provide the stepping stone for a return to The Ryder Cup side after claiming a share of the first round lead in Vilamoura.
The Englishman represented Europe in the victory at The Celtic Manor Resort two years ago, but missed out on The Miracle of Medinah after a slump in form.
Five top-ten finishes this summer hinted that the 31 year old may be getting back to his best, and a six under par 65 saw Fisher share the first round lead with in-form Scot Stephen Gallacher.
“It's been coming for a while and it's nice to see the hard work paying off,” said Fisher. “I watched a fair bit of it [The Ryder Cup in Chicago].
“I was tuning in watching and cheering on the boys - I actually felt more nervous sitting on the sofa than I did at Celtic Manor, it was kind of weird.
“If that doesn't inspire me and all of these other guys to get in The Ryder Cup, then you shouldn't be playing the game of golf. That was just awesome; I've experienced it in Wales and it's something that I think - Rory said it once - you've played in one, you never want to miss another one.
“So that did spur me on to get out and work hard. I think 17th in the world was my best, I'm not there now but I'm working hard and I'm improving, so one step at a time and we'll be back hopefully soon enough.”
Fisher birdied three of his first six holes, bogeyed the short 16th, but then picked up four more shots in five holes at the start of the outward half.
Gallacher’s bogey-free effort was all the more impressive as it came just four days after the horror of dropping four shots in one hole when still in contention for a second European Tour title.
The 37 year old was lying fourth at St Andrews on Sunday, when he played the wrong ball on the 16th hole and incurred a two stroke penalty.
"There's not much rough, and the greens are unbelievably good," said Gallacher after collecting three birdies on each nine.
"I got off to a good start, which was nice, but when the wind picked up it was pretty tough."
Another scot, George Murray, sat third on five under par, with Swedes Fredrik Andersson Hed and Christian Nilsson, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, South African Jbe Kruger and Welshman Jamie Donaldson all signing for rounds of 67.
Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal was paired with two of his Medinah heroes in Martin Kaymer and Francesco Molinari.
None of them really sparkled in the first round, however. Kaymer carded a two under par round of 69, Molinari a 71 and Olazábal a 75.
Defending champion Tom Lewis, like Murray trying to end a run of eight successive missed cuts, reached four under par when he eagled the long sixth hole from six feet, but bogeyed two of his last three holes for a round of 69.
"It was a shame about the finish, but I remembered the shots I hit last year and it definitely helped," the 21 year old commented. "I drove the ball well and gave myself a lot of opportunities."