Scottish pair Craig Howie and Marc Warren started the Austrian Open in fine style, posting six under par rounds of 66 to share second place behind Joost Luiten.
Howie, playing in the third group of the morning, set the early pace and was bogey-free on the testing Diamond Country Club layout. A birdie at the last saw him move ahead of a growing group of competitors on five under par.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Howie. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect after four months off, so that was a surprise. It’s the first time I’ve had a bogey-free round in a long time. That was pretty satisfying, particularly on such a tough golf course.
“There was no wind, so it really was perfect conditions. The greens are so good, so that makes putting a little easier and you can then build a score.
“With my category, I’ve only ever had one opportunity to play on the European Tour before. To have the chance to play in a dual-ranking event is great. It’s a lot more money than I’m used to playing for, so there is a lot to play for this week.”
Warren, making his first start since the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg in December, marked his return to golf with a round which included five birdies and an eagle.
“You’re never quite sure what it’ll be like once you’re out on the course,” said Warren. “Strangely enough, with no crowds, it was just like playing at home over the last few weeks. That was going through my head and helped me keep my game free. I was hitting the ball, seeing where it went and then finding it again, rather than over-thinking things.
“I’m carrying my own bag for the first time in 15 or 16 years too. Ken (Herring) didn’t get his test back in time, unfortunately. So that was that.”
Runner-up on this golf course at the Shot Clock Masters in 2018, Connor Syme made a strong start to the Austrian Open with a five under par round of 67.
Syme drove to Austria with his caddie and was rewarded for his efforts with four birdies in his first four holes.
“I got off to an amazing start,” said Syme. “I still felt sharp. I did an interview earlier in the week where I said I’d be relaxed if I hit a bad shot. I might have hit some not-so-perfect ones on the front nine. But on the first, I started with a perfect five wood and a perfect eight iron, and it felt like I’d never been away.
“I feel like my game has been trending well at home. I had the right amount of rest and I still feel fresh. That’s been the most important thing about the break, not over-doing it. I’ve managed that, and hopefully I won’t run out of energy.”
Syme shares fourth place with Sweden’s Philip Eriksson, Nicolai Højgaard of Denmark and Italian Lorenzo Scalise.