Playing in the final group of the day, home favourite Vitor Lopes secured the first-round lead after closing out an impressive seven under 65 in the fading light at the Open de Portugal.
Chasing the five under par target set by Carlos Pigem earlier in the day, Lopes made a fast start to his round with two birdies and an eagle in his first five holes.
As the last of the afternoon starters Lopes was able to take advantage of the calmer conditions, and recovered from a bogey at the sixth with further birdies at seven and nine to make the turn in a tie for the lead.
It was a lead he would extend with back to back gains at the 10th and 11th holes, before parring his way in through the last of the day’s light to score his lowest career round in a European Tour event.
“I am very happy, it is my best score on the European Tour and we got the round done so I will relax tonight,” said Lopes, who finished tied for 23rd when he last played in the Open de Portugal in 2018,
“It was a windy day and we got lucky not getting the bad weather with the rain, so I was just focusing on hitting greens and fairways, and some putts dropped in. Through 12 I was already seven under so I just kept the same mentality and I could finish it off.”
The Portuguese player, who plays predominantly on the Alps Tour, skipped the last two events in order to take up National spots at both the Portugal Masters and this week’s Open de Portugal.
It was a difficult decision for Lopes, who was performing well on the Alps Tour, and he admitted that he is a man on a mission at Royal Óbidos Spa & Golf Resort after the experience of last week’s tournament helped him to feel at ease.
“It is always a big week playing at home and in a European Tour event. I played last week so this week I am more relaxed, I am a man on a mission to make the most of it because I am currently on the Alps Tour playing but I have skipped two tournaments, and I was doing well on the rankings, so I hope I made the right decision.
As for his strategy for the remainder of the week, Lopes is hopeful home comforts can help him to continue scoring well.
“I will do the same and hopefully keep shooting 65s because I think that will be a good score. The staff are all Portuguese and you definitely get home benefits. I feel more comfortable.”
Finishing a couple of groups ahead of Lopes was Damian Perrier, who put on an impressive display to match Pigem’s five under total, despite initially being unsure whether he would be able to play the event.
“To be honest I had my neck blocked yesterday so I was not even sure if I could tee off today,” Perrier said after his round.
“I’ve been seeing the physio and taking medication and it’s not been easy for me but thankfully I had a really good warm up and could play, and it’s getting better, so hopefully it will stay like this and I can play well tomorrow.
“It was something new from yesterday morning when I woke up, so it must have been a bad position during my sleep. I couldn’t move yesterday so I was supposed to practice yesterday afternoon but I couldn’t move from my bed. I was supposed to rest and see how it was for today and thankfully I could play and play well.”
Perrier, who finished ninth during the most recent dual-ranked event - the Euram Bank Open - made seven birdies and two bogeys during his five under 67, which including a birdie at the final hole.
He said: “It was a very good round of golf. I made seven birdies, two bogeys, which were stupid little mistakes on not the toughest holes so I felt like I was playing very well and I even missed some short putts at the very beginning of the game today and lipped out on 17 but there was plenty of opportunities around today so I converted most of them, but still I could do even lower.”
Alexander Knappe, Julian Suri, Garrick Higgo and Ricardo Santos all finished at four under, with a group of 11 players a shot further back – including recent Portugal Masters champion George Coetzee.