Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson outshone the four members of last week's winning team in the field on the opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on Thursday.
Wilson, who played in Europe’s only defeat this century at Valhalla in 2008, carded a superb eight-under-par 64 at Carnoustie, one of the three courses used for the pro-am event.
That gave the world number 792 a one-shot lead over France's Raphael Jacquelin, with Ryder Cup vice-captain Pádraig Harrington a shot further back alongside fellow Irishman Shane Lowry, whose 66 was the best score of the day at Kingsbarns.
Scotland's Stephen Gallacher was the best-placed of the Gleneagles quartet after a 68, with fellow rookie Victor Dubuisson returning a 71, world number one Rory McIlroy a 73 and Martin Kaymer a 74. European captain Paul McGinley shot 72 in just his second European Tour event since July.
Wilson has finished runner-up nine times on the European Tour, including in this event in 2009, but lost his card in 2012 and is currently trying to regain it via the Challenge Tour.
“Looking at the forecast, getting Carnoustie out of the way is theoretically the best thing, but you’ve still got to go and play and shoot a good score to take advantage of it, and I’m delighted that I have,” he said.
The 34-year-old won one point from two matches on his Ryder Cup debut six years ago – partnering Henrik Stenson to victory over Phil Mickelson and Anthony Kim after being four down – but added: "It's been a while since I played like that, though.
“I want to be back there, definitely, and it’s inspiring to watch. The boys played awesome last week. You look at the team, they are so strong now, got so many big, big names, big players in there.
“It will be tough to get back in there but for me, you watch it and then you come and play a tournament like this, which is fantastic. Dunhill Links is always one of the best tournaments of the year.”
Harrington was on course to match Wilson’s score until he bogeyed the final two holes at Carnoustie, the course where he won the first of his back-to-back British Open titles in 2007.
“You go out, your head is down and you’re working away and you get on the first tee and the scorer reminds you that you won the Open Championship here, that’s kind of nice,” said Harrington, who has slipped to 324th in the world rankings after six years without a win on a major worldwide tour.
“That was a little boost on the first tee box. That sort of thing is a good reminder. The spectators, that sort of thing, does remind you of good days back in 2007.
“Every week is a new week on Tour. I certainly enjoyed last week and I particularly enjoyed Sunday night. Maybe my preparation wasn’t ideal coming in here on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, but I know the golf courses well so I didn’t have to play a lot before I got into the tournament to play here. I’m comfortable on them.”
McIlroy was an approximate eight under par in beating Rickie Fowler 5&4 in the singles at Gleneagles, but managed just one birdie in his round on Thursday.
“A little bit flat, if I’m honest,” McIlroy said. “Obviously with the crowds and everything we were playing in front of last week, to come here it seems a little quiet out there, but it was fun to get to play with my dad.
“I wish I had played a bit better and made a few more birdies but hopefully that will happen over the next couple of days.
“I want to win every week and I want to play well this week and at least give myself a chance. It was not the best score out there for me but we got the hardest course out of the way.”
Peter Lawrie was back on two under after a 70 at Kingsbarns, while Darren Clarke was the only other Irish player under par after he carded a one-under 71 on the Old Course, a round that included putting in for a birdie from 100 feet away on the fairway at the 16th.