Des Smyth is just three shots behind leader Denis Durnian after the opening round of the Travis Perkins plc Senior Masters at Woburn.
The 2010 champion shot a level par 72 to share 13th place as Englishman Durnian hit a 69 to lead by a shot from a group of nine players on three under par.
The 62 year old, by his own admission, has struggled to find the fairways this season, but a new driver was just the remedy as he carded seven birdies to top the leaderboard at the Duke’s Course.
Durnian, whose last of three Senior Tour victories came in 2002, said: “I’ve been driving it so badly all season, so the Ping guy gave me a new driver the other day, and today I ripped it down the middle of every fairway.
“I’ve not been on the fairways all year, so it was a nice change not to always be hitting out of the trees.
“As a rule I drive the ball straight, which you have to do on this golf course. So it has been particularly frustrating lately and I’m pleased to have improved a lot today.”
The rest of the Irish struggled with Denis O’Sullivan the next best with 76, Eamonn Darcy (78) and Philip Walton (80).
Christy O’Connor Jnr withdrew after an opening 83
69 D Durnian (Eng),
70 P Fowler (Aus), A Sherborne (Eng), R Drummond (Sco), G Brand Jnr (Sco), J Quiros (Esp), J Gould (Eng), M Belsham (Eng), M Cunning (USA), T Johnstone (Zim),
71 K Tomori (Jpn), T Thelen (USA),
72 G Wolstenholme (Eng), G Manson (Aut), J Bruner (USA), A Murray (Eng), C Mason (Eng), D Smyth (Irl), A Franco (Par), J Rhodes (Eng), M Harwood (Aus),
73 P Wesselingh (Eng), N Ratcliffe (Aus), B Cameron (Eng), P Curry (Eng), J Rivero (Esp), A Fernandez (Chi), T Price (Aus), C Williams (RSA),
74 D Merriman (Aus), B Lane (Eng), R Chapman (Eng), R Sabarros (Fra), P Golding (Eng), B Ruangkit (Tha),
75 S Torrance (Sco), B Longmuir (Sco), M Martin (Esp), D Hospital (Esp), A Oldcorn (Sco), B Smit (RSA),
76 S McAllister (Sco), S Cipa (Eng), D Cambridge (Jam), Z Martinez (USA), B Lincoln (RSA), G Ryall (Eng), D O’Sullivan (Irl), G Brand (Eng), G Ralph (Eng), M James (Eng),
77 M Mouland (Wal), R Davis (Aus), J Harrison (Eng), M Farry (Fra), N Job (Eng), P Barber (Eng),
78 E Rodriguez (Esp), P Mitchell (Eng), K Spurgeon (Eng), T Elliott (Aus), R Gibson (Can), G Norquist (USA),
79 E Darcy (Irl), G Banister (Aus),
80 L Carbonetti (Arg), M Piñero (Esp), P Walton (Irl),
81 V Garcia (Esp), J Hall (Eng),
83 C O’Connor Jnr (Irl),
84 A Garrido (Esp)