Thomas Pieters (Getty Images)
Thomas Pieters charged into an early lead with an opening round of 65 at the First Qualifying Stage Section C at Ribagolfe, in Portugal.
The young Belgian, who is being mentored by his compatriot Nicolas Colsaerts, started on the tenth tee, and promptly collected his first birdie of the day at the par five 12th. Having given the shot straight back with a bogey at the next hole, he rallied with three gains to turn in 33.
Pieters went one lower on his back nine, closing with his ninth birdie of the day at the ninth to sign for a seven under par round which puts him in pole position to claim one of the 24 places available for the Second Stage.
American Daniel Berger, who mixed eight birdies with three bogeys, is Pieters’ closest challenger on five under par.
Meanwhile, over at Circolo Golf Bogogno, American Michael Jensen led the way with a four under par round of 68, closely followed by Finland’s Anti Ahokas on three under par.
As with Ribagolfe, the top 24 and ties from the Italian venue will also proceed to the Second Stage.