Thomas Detry carded a remarkable second nine of 29 to open up a one-shot lead after day one of the Porsche European Open.
The Belgian made four closing birdies in a 68 to get to four under as fans were present at a European Tour event on European soil for the first time since October 2019, in a tournament starting on a Saturday and being played over 54 holes due to potential quarantine issues for players, caddies and staff from the UK.
Ireland's Cormac Sharvin is one under par, three off the lead, after finishing strongly with two birdies on the back nine. As for the rest of the Irish: Jonathan Caldwell is level par, Niall Kearney is two over par, while two shots further adrift is Paul Dunne.
The 7,603-yard layout just south of Hamburg is regarded as one of the toughest on tour but Scotland's David Law and England's Ashley Chesters impressed to sit at three under alongside Swede Alexander Bjork and China's Wu Ashun.
Luckily for Detry, he believes a tougher course suits his game and the 28-year-old was feeling confident as he went in search of a first solo victory on a top-tier tour.
“It’s very major,” he said. “I played the US PGA two weeks ago and it’s a similar approach, you have to drive it on the fairway otherwise it’s really penalising.
“In a way that’s golf that suits me a bit more, I tend to struggle on easy courses where you’re forced to make birdies otherwise you’re losing ground, and it’s a completely different approach on this golf course.
“I’m very pleased with the way I’ve been playing. I hit 12 fairways today, some really good golf so I’m pleased with it and I’m looking forward to the next couple of days.”
After starting on the 10th, Detry bogeyed the 16th but came to life on his second nine, making seven birdies as he came home in 29, with a double-bogey on the third after he found the water and three-putted the only thing denying him a commanding lead.
Law birdied the second and fourth but gave the shots straight back before a gain on the seventh saw him turn in 33. He was two under after a birdie on the tenth but he surrendered that gain on the 13th before picking up shots on the 15th and 16th.
“It’s probably the toughest course we play all year,” he said. “It’s certainly up there.
“To start off three under par, I’m really happy with. I wasn’t particularly fresh this morning, I travelled down from Denmark last night so to shoot that, I’m really happy.”
Chesters left himself three feet at the second but bogeyed the third and sixth before holing a 20 footer on the eighth. He then holed out from 109 yards at the par-five ninth to catapult himself into contention with an eagle and an approach to four feet on the 15th had him within one.