Frenchman Sebastien Gros coped best with testing windy conditions to take the lead after the first day of the BMW International Open.
With more than three quarters of the field over par at Golf Club Gut Laerchenhof in Pulheim, near Cologne - and no player bogey-free - the 28-year-old’s one dropped shot at the short 16th was impressive and he reached the clubhouse on four under.
Gros was four under for his outward nine and added a fifth birdie at the par-five 15th, slipped up at the next and missed a 10-foot birdie chance at his penultimate hole.
It left him ahead of a group including European Tour rookie pair Aaron Rai and Henrik Sturehed, Scotland's Scott Jamieson and Spaniard Jorge Campillo, who bogeyed his last hole - the ninth - to drop out of a share of the lead.
“It was quite brutal with the wind and it was tough to get the ball on the fairway,” Gros said after his round. “I was four under after nine but there was still 63 holes to play. I was just thinking about trying to make the best round I could. I’m just one putting week from something very good.”
World number 10 Tommy Fleetwood had a difficult return to action after finishing as the runner-up at the US Open on Sunday, posting a 74 after slipping from two under through five holes.
The English golfer, whose father Pete reprised the role as his son's caddie in the absence of regular bagman Ian Finnis after the birth of his son this week, dropped five shots in as many holes - including a double-bogey seven.
He holed a 25-foot birdie putt at the 11th to get back to two over but sliced his drive into the thick rough for bogey at the next and, although he pulled one back at the 519-yard 13th, he could not improve on his two-over score.
Rai, who graduated from the Challenge Tour after winning three events last season, admitted conditions were tough. “Anything around par was a bonus as the wind was blowing hard,” said the 23-year-old, who had just one bogey on his card.
“It was all pretty tough. With a lot of crosswinds on approach shots it was tricky to judge distance.”
Sturehed, who came out of Q-School last year, reached five under at one point but eventually fell back after a mixed round of an eagle, five birdies and four bogeys.
“I spent most of the time on the fairway but missed a couple on the back nine and it feels like you almost drop a shot as soon as you are in the rough,” said the Swede.
Jamieson was more than happy with his round, which included six birdies.
“Delighted with that. It was an extremely tough day with the wind up to 30mph at times,” he said.
Ireland’s Paul McBride struggled to get to grips with the conditions, finishing with a round of 76.