Chris Selfridge might have missed the first two cuts of the year but he made amends in Spain when he opened with an immaculate 66 to share third spot in the Challenge de Madrid.
The 24-year old from Moyola Park birdied the 13th to turn in one under par at the Real Club de Golf La Herrera and then added further birdies at the second, sixth and ninth to trail Italy’s Francesco Laporta by just two shots.
Laporta, 25, made six birdies in a six under par 64 to lead by one shot from home favourite Javier Colomo.
“I just played really nice golf all day,” said Laporta who gained his card for the 2016 European Tour season through Q-School.
“I tried to play to the middle of the green, not too close to the pin, and I made three putts from 30 feet so I was very happy. I also hit a lot of fairways, I missed only one today, so I played really solidly from tee to green. But most of all my putter was unbelievably good.
“The course is really tough this week – the greens are not easy to read. You have to hit it very straight from the tee as there are lots of trees and obstructions.
“For the rest of the week I just want to play my game and I do not want to see a leaderboard. I will try to play my best and see what I can do.”
It was a mixed day for the five Irish in action with Rosapenna’s Ruaidhri McGee tied seventh on three under after a fine, bogey free 67.
Headfort’s Brian Casey had three birdies and three bogeys in a 70 that leaves him inside the top 60 in a share of 43rd with Kevin Phelan on the cut mark in joint 60th after a one over 71.
West Waterford’s Gary Hurley was level with four to go but double bogeyed the 15th and dropped another shot at the last for a three over 73 and a share of 99th.
Four Spaniards finished the day inside the top ten in their country’s capital, with Barcelona-born Pep Angles carrying on the good form he showed at the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, tied for third with Selfridge, compatriot Juan Sarasti and Rainer Saxton of the Netherlands after a four under par 66.
Scores after round 1:
64 F Laporta (Ita),
65 J Colomo (Esp),
66 P Angles (Esp), R Saxton (Ned), Chris Selfridge (Nir), J Sarasti (Esp),
67 J Lando Casanova (Fra), Ruaidhri McGee (Irl), R Enoch (Wal),
68 M Pavon (Fra), N Quintarelli (Ita), C Mivis (Bel), J Dantorp (Swe), J Sjöholm (Swe), D Bransdon (Aus), J Makitalo (Fin), R Santos (Por), A Garcia-Heredia (Esp), R Evans (Eng), D Law (Sco), S Soderberg (Swe),
69 D Gaunt (Aus), J Senior (Eng), L Gagli (Ita), P Maddy (Eng), G King (Eng), E Goya (Arg), J Garcia Pinto (Esp), A Velasco (Esp), M Søgaard (Den), C Bouniol (Fra), D Stewart (Sco), D Foos (Ger), L Nemecz (Aut), J Guerrier (Fra), P Oriol (Esp), J Loughrey (Eng), T Ferrer (Esp), E Kofstad (Nor), H Joannes (Bel), R Langasque (Fra), M Ortolani (Ita),
70 C Arendell (USA), X Guzman (Esp), P Widegren (Swe), B Casey (Irl), F Fritsch (Ger), B Stow (Eng), P Whiteford (Sco), C Del Moral (Esp), P Martin Benavides (Esp), J Stalter (Fra), M Crespi (Ita), T Murray (Eng), D Huizing (Ned), J Smith (Eng), B Ritthammer (Ger), N Geyger (Chi), S Hutsby (Eng), J Garcia Del Moral (Esp), O Farr (Wal), C Balmaseda (Esp), G Piris Mateu (Esp), S Garcia Rodriguez (Esp), D Lloyd (RSA), C Costilla (Arg), J Robinson (Eng), M Galiano Aguilar (am) (Esp),
71 W Harrold (Eng), J Van Der Vaart (Ned), P Mejow (Ger), E Dubois (Fra), B Rusch (Sui), M Lundberg (Swe), E Larrañaga (Esp), W Besseling (Ned), S Walker (Eng), Kevin Phelan (Irl), C Hanson (Eng), J Cafourek (Cze), A Pavan (Ita), M Lafeber (Ned), C Koerbler (Aut), J Zuska (am) (Cze),
72 O Stark (Swe), J Edfors (Swe), V Blazquez (Esp), J Lara (Esp), M Simonsen (Den), A Karlsson (Swe), P Shields (Sco), A Björk (Swe), B Hellgren (Swe), D Van Driel (Ned), M Lampert (Ger), M Wiegele (Aut), C Feldborg Nielsen (Swe), G Migliozzi (am) (Ita),
73 M Orrin (Eng), J Lima (Por), G Murray (Sco), M Tullo (Chi), M Nixon (Eng), M Trappel (Aut), M Palmer (RSA), D Berna Manzanares (Esp), D Wright (Eng), S Jeppesen (Swe), S Fernandez (Esp), Gary Hurley (Irl), J Barnes (Eng), D Perrier (Fra), V Riu (Fra), J White (Eng), J Blaauw (RSA), S Arnold (Aus), S Hodgson (Eng), T Remkes (Ned),
74 A Maestroni (Ita), B Neil (Sco), C Ford (Eng), A Tadini (Ita), M Delpodio (Ita), T Lewis (Eng), F Bergamaschi (Ita), A Ahokas (Fin), P Howard (Eng), D Jennevret (Swe), R Coles (Eng), M Schneider (Ger),
75 G Axell (Swe), J Hahn (USA), B Etchart (Esp), K Samooja (Fin), C Sordet (Fra), C Doak (Sco), M Röhrig (Ger), N Marsh (Eng),
76 M Quiros (Esp), S Tiley (Eng), M Foster (Eng), D Løkke (Den), P Relecom (Bel), S Kim (USA), I Cantero Gutierrez (am) (Esp),
77 S Henry (Sco), A Hartø (Den), E Cuartero Blanco (Esp), M Armitage (Eng),
78 T Pulkkanen (Fin),
79 S Simon (Esp), J Doherty (Sco),
80 A Rota (Ita), T Bakker (Fin),
82 G Canizares (Esp), A Hortal (Esp).