Padraig Harrington produced a brilliant finish to rescue his hopes of a third Dunhill Links Championship and his second Order of Merit title.
Harrington has complained of fatigue since the Ryder Cup at Valhalla, where he surprisingly gained just half a point for the second contest in succession.
And the Irishman looked to be still some way off the form that brought him the last two major championships as he failed to make the most of benign early conditions at Kingsbarns, one of the three courses, along with St Andrews and Carnoustie, used for the lucrative pro-am event.
Starting from the 10th, Harrington birdied the 12th and 13th but then dropped shots at the 16th and 17th and was level par after 12 holes, good enough only for a share of 90th place.
But the double Open winner then birdied five of his last six holes to card a five-under-par 67, three off the lead held by Ryder Cup team-mate Soren Hansen and England's Ross Fisher.
"When you are leading it you want to win it," said Harrington, who currently leads Lee Westwood by £180,000 at the top of the money list, with £432,000 on offer to the winner here.
"The first question you will be asked when you retire is how many majors you have won, but Order of Merits come a close second."
Harrington was paired with another cup team-mate, and foursomes partner, Robert Karlsson today - who also shot 67 - and admitted the pair had been doing some "soul-searching" about Europe's surprise defeat at Valhalla on the way round.
"We decided the US team just played better and we can't have an issue with that," added Harrington.
"One thing that we did agree on was that Olly (Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Faldo's vice-captain) will make a fantastic captain.
"He had us in tears with his passion on Saturday night."
Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are tied for 20th place after four-under par 68s at St Andrews and Kingsbarns while Peter Lawrie shot a 70 and Damien McGrane a one-under par 71 at Carnoustie.
McIlroy’s amateur partner, the former Manchester United and England football star Sir Bobby Charlton, was delighted to post and eight-under par 64 in the opening round.
“I had a really fantastic day. I had two net eagles, one going out and one coming back on the par-5s. I’ve never made the cut before,” Charlton said. “I’ll be going to bed early tonight to get ready for tomorrow.
“Rory is a lovely lad. Just at the start of a great career. He played really well. He could have single-putted every one of the first nine greens.”
While Harrington hit that 67, Darren Clarke (72), Paul McGinley (73) and Gary Murphy (74) all struggled at Kingsbarns.