Julien Quesne holds a narrow one-stroke lead following the first round of the Northern Ireland Open Supported by The R&A after posting a four under par round of 66.
The two-time European Tour winner claimed the sole lead with a birdie on the final hole at Galgorm Castle Golf Club to go into the second round one stroke clear of countryman Clement Berardo, America’s Tyler Koivisto and English duo Bradley Moore and Alfie Plant.
The Frenchman carded just a single bogey on day one in Ballymena and was pleased with his return to competitive action.
“I have been playing well for two or three weeks and the game is feeling better,” he said. “I started well with two birdies and after that I just made a couple of putts.
“It was really windy today. We only had one hole with rain, so it was okay. The wind made the course quite difficult and I’m quite happy with my score today.
“It’s good to be back. I’m playing well so I just want to have the best week I can. I’ll focus on every shot and we’ll see where we are at the end.”
England’s Plant, who won the Silver Medal at The 2017 Open Championship, believes avoiding the thick Galgorm Castle rough was key to posting a good opening score.
“It was a little bit scrappy out there,” he said. “The rough is so thick so whenever you miss the fairway you’re scrambling for pars. I made some key putts to keep the momentum going and it was nice to come in with no bogeys.
“If you feel like you’re hitting your driver well, you’ve got to go for it and be further down in the rough. If you do take a three-wood or an iron off the tee and you do miss the fairway then you’re miles back. I think, sometimes, it’s worth the gamble hitting the driver.
“I think as golfers, you always have expectations. We put in so many hours, you expect to shoot 59 every week and step up, but it doesn’t quite work like that.
“I’ve played a few events now on the European Tour and Challenge Tour, so I feel like I’ve got enough experience now. As long as my game’s in the right place, I feel like I can compete.”
A group of 11 players share sixth place on two under par, including Scottish trio Craig Ross, Euan Walker and Daniel Young, Swedish duo Björn Hellgren and Mikael Lundberg, English pair Chris Cannon and Ben Talbot, Denmark’s Martin Ovesen, USA’s Dodge Kemmer, Iceland’s Gudmundur Kristjansson and Italian Enrico Di Nitto, who was the only player in the field to card a blemish-free round.