Michael Hoey took full advantage of a stroke of luck at his first hole to trail leader Ross McGowan by two strokes after the opening round of the Estoril Open de Portugal.

Starting on the par-five eighth, the former British Amateur champion sent his approach over the green and felt lucky to find the ball sitting up in the rough from where he saved a miraculous par.

Hoey went on to fire a five under par 66 as McGowan, 26, equalled the lowest score of his European Tour career with a seven under par 64 in windy conditions at Oitavos Dunes.

"I actually got  a really good up and down on my first hole for par," said Hoey, who had an eagle, six birdie and three bogeys in his 66. "I got a flyer and it was sitting up when I was lucky to find it. 

"I played the next one perfectly and it released down to four feet. It was a potential disaster and once I got that, I was away. It's amazing how your first hole sets the trend for the day. That up and down felt like a birdie."

Hoey parred the next two holes as well before string together eight holes without a par as he hit an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys between the 11th and the 18th to turn in five-under par 30.

He then picked up another shot at the par three third and wasn't overly disappointed to drop a shot at the sixth on the way home. 

He said: "I should have shot six under but I made a couple of sloppy swings near the end. But that's golf. It can always be better."

Hoey  grabbed a top ten finish in Madeira two weeks ago and reckons his decision to recharge his batteries in Belfast after missing the cut in last week's Open de Andalucia in Seville was an inspired one.

"I picked up a little bit of a cold in Madeira and wasn't really with it in Seville," he explained. "So I went home for a couple of days and slept in my own bed. I'm glad I went home and I feel strong again.  "Those decisions are almost more important than the ones you make with your game."

The highlight of his round was an eagle three on the downwind 573 yard 16th, where he hit a drive and six iron to 30 feet.

Paul McGinley bounced back from his 82 in the second round in Seville - his worst score for a decade - with a one under par 70 that left him tied for 31st.

Gary Murphy fired a one over par 72 but it was a disappointing day for Peter Lawrie and Damien McGrane as they signed for two over par 73s.

Clandeboye's Jonny Caldwell had a rollercoaster 75 that included five birdies, four bogeys, a double bogey six and a triple bogey eight at the 13th.