Pablo Larrazábal continued the excellent form he had shown before the coronavirus pandemic to hold a share of the lead midway through the opening round of the 2020 Betfred British Masters hosted by Lee Westwood.
The Spaniard lies fourth in The Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex after starting the year with some impressive results, including a win at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Larrazábal continued to shine on his return to action at Close House Golf Club, making three birdies in his last four holes for a four under par 67.
At the start of the UK Swing, that saw him tie for the lead with several home favourites, with English trio Ashley Chesters, Eddie Pepperell and Ben Stow and Scotland's Calum Hill all holding a share of the clubhouse lead.
Former European Amateur champion Chesters produced four birdies in a flawless round, while Stow and Hill both mixed six gains with two bogeys.
Virtual high-fives @plarrazabal 👋 #BetfredBritishMasters #GolfForGood pic.twitter.com/Ph6WmScKAo— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 22, 2020
Pepperell, who spoke in the tournament build-up of his weight loss after sticking to a strict diet consisting of steak, liver and bone broth during lockdown, reaped the benefits with five birdies – including a gain from 15 feet on the ninth - against a solitary dropped shot on the 16th.
He was playing alongside tournament host Westwood, who birdied the first from six feet and recovered an unlikely bogey at the 13th after losing a ball off the tee in a one under 70.
Former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell was part of a five man group in the clubhouse on three under, alongside Swedes Alexander Björk and Jens Fahrbring and English pair Andy Sullivan and Dale Whitnell.
“It's great, I couldn't wait to be back,” said Larrazábal. “This is a big part of our lives and to be away more than four months, it's been a nightmare.
“Hopefully were giving a good show to the people back home.
“The lockdown was tough, over two months without leaving the house, but it was good time to think about the way forward and to work out and get ready.”
Canada's Aaron Cockerill made birdies at the 16th and 17th to claim the outright clubhouse lead on five under with a 66.
He was joined at the top of the leaderboard by England's Oliver Fisher, who made six birdies in eight holes from the sixth and remained five under with two to play.
Another of the English contingent, Jack Singh Brar, had joined those in the clubhouse on four under, with Renato Paratore and David Law on the same mark out on the course.