Tramore's Robin Dawson continued his excellent start to the season by carding one of just four sub-par opening rounds in the European Nations Cup at Real Club de Golf de Sotogrande.
The Maynooth University ace raced to the turn in an immaculate four-under-par 32 and while he struggled home in 39, a fine one-under-par 71 left him solo fourth at the end of a tough day.
The big Waterford man is just three strokes behind Norway's Markus Braadlie, who made six birdies in a stunning, four-under par 68 to open up a two-shot lead over Welsh Walker Cup hopefuls Jack Davidson and David Boote.
For the rest of the field, the classic Robert Trent Jones Snr design was clearly a handful with slick, firm greens and a steady breeze making scoring far from easy.
Only three other players matched par and the average score for the 72-strong field was 78.5.
Wales leads the team standings by three strokes from the Norwegians and by six shots from Germany on two-over-par.
The Italians are fourth and Ireland fifth, just eight behind on 10-over-par after a 77 for Castle's Alex Gleeson and a 78 for Tullamore's Stuart Grehan.
The Island's Kevin LeBlanc needed a birdie at the last for a discarded 79 that looked hugely promising when he stood on the eighth tee at one-under-par for the day.
The youngster had yet to drop a shot but then made four bogeys in a row and came home in 42.
Grehan had the best back nine of the quartet, a two-over 38, but could manage just one birdie all day to share 36th on six-over
Gleeson made two but had five bogeys and a double on a testing course measuring just over 7,000 yards from the back stakes and lies joint 26th.
Roos Haarman of Holland and Scotland's Chloe Goadby carded 72s to share the lead on level par in the women's event where the Netherlands leads by two shots on four-over from France and Switzerland.
- 68 1st BRAADLIE, MARKUS
- 70 T2 DAVIDSON, JACK; BOOTE, DAVID
- 71 4th DAWSON, ROBIN
- 77 T26 GLEESON, ALEX
- 78 T36 GREHAN, STUART
- 79 T43 LEBLANC, KEVIN