Alex Noren set the pace on day one of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship after producing a sublime round of 64 at Carnoustie to equal the course record.
The Swede fired eight birdies at the course widely regarded as the toughest of the three host venues to open up a one shot lead over Ross Fisher, who closed with a birdie to sign for a round of 65 at Kingsbarns.
Starting his first round on the tenth tee, Noren – bidding for his second title on Scottish soil this season after his victory at Castle Stuart – carded birdies at three of his first five holes to reach the turn in 33.
After beginning his back nine with another gain at the first, the 34 year old holed a tricky birdie putt at the fifth before picking up another shot at the long sixth hole.
And Noren finished with a flourish, rolling in from 15 feet for a birdie at the eighth before repeating the trick from 12 feet at the ninth to move to eight under.
Fisher’s performance was no less impressive, as the Englishman defied low temperatures and a stiff breeze to pick up where he left off at the Porsche European Open two weeks ago.
The former Ryder Cup star lost in a play-off to Alex Levy, but swiftly banished the disappointment with five birdies and an eagle in a flawless display.
Third place is currently shared between his compatriot Matt Ford and Swede Joakim Lagergren, who posted rounds of 66 at Kingsbarns and Carnoustie respectively.
Scott Jamieson is the leading home player after shooting five under at Kingsbarns, whilst Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello both backed up sterling displays in the Ryder Cup with rounds of 70 at Carnoustie.
Alex Noren: “I putted great and then yeah, really got it going. It was tough conditions, but probably one of the best rounds I’ve ever played, so I’m very happy right now.
“I like Carnoustie, but I’ve never shot lower than 71 here. I didn’t expect much today, but it went far better than I expected.
“All three courses are in probably the best shape I’ve ever seen them. The greens are running great, and they’re in great shape.”
“I’m obviously very pleased with the way round, and it’s a good continuation of the form I showed in Germany a couple of weeks back. Kingsbarns is normally the easier of the three courses so you know you have to make a decent score here, but when the wind blows here it’s anything but easy, because some holes are very exposed to the elements. So I’m delighted with seven under to start.
“It’s a different wind to the one we experienced in practice, it completely flipped around so it was almost like playing a different course. So it took a few holes to get into the round and get used to the conditions, but the birdie on 16 got me off and running and I didn’t look back after that.”
Rafa Cabrera Bello: “It was nice today, I’m still a little bit tired from last week, but I enjoyed it. I’ve become very good friends with Dermot Desmond over the last few years, so it was nice to play with him again today.
Also in our fourball, we had Martin Kaymer and his dad, so it was a very friendly group. It was cold but dry, and that’s all that I could have wished for. I felt good today with my game, and I shot a pretty good score. Not as good as Alex Noren, but it was okay.”
Thomas Pieters: “It’s great to be back. Everybody is on my side here, so it’s nice. But I’m still very tired mentally. I started off with a drive, then I shanked my four-iron on the tenth, but got up-and-down from a hundred yards to save par. So it was a weird way to open the Championship, but from then on, I was pretty solid. I made a couple of good par saves and hit some good wedges, so I feel fine.”
Round one scores;
64 A Noren (Swe);
65 R Fisher (Eng);
66 J Lagergren (Swe); M Ford (Eng);
67 T Hatton (Eng); C Shinkwin (Eng); R Jacquelin (Fra); S Jamieson (Sco);
68 J Kruger (RSA); F Fritsch (Ger); E Pepperell (Eng); A Cañizares (Esp); R Karlberg (Swe);
69 R Sterne (RSA); U Van Den Berg (RSA); D Bransdon (Aus); G Bourdy (Fra); B Dredge (Wal); M Guyatt (Aus); R West (RSA); N Holman (Aus); D Brooks (Eng); C Lee (Sco); M Hoey (Nir); E Molinari (Ita);
70 A McArthur (Sco); D Im (USA); J Hugo (RSA); T Pieters (Bel); P Meesawat (Tha); J Zunic (Aus); J Hansen (Den); R Rock (Eng); R Ramsay (Sco); R Cabrera Bello (Esp); S Gallacher (Sco); A Otaegui (Esp); A Dodt (Aus); C Stroud (USA); P Peterson (USA); L Slattery (Eng); J Ahlers (RSA); P Harrington (Irl); R Bland (Eng);
71 P Larrazábal (Esp); R Paratore (Ita); S Kjeldsen (Den); J Donaldson (Wal); N Colsaerts (Bel); P Hanson (Swe); L Oosthuizen (RSA); J McLeary (Sco); G Storm (Eng); D Burmester (RSA); A Wall (Eng); L Jensen (Den); Y Yang (Kor); R Lee (Can); J Morrison (Eng); P Waring (Eng); C Paisley (Eng); M Kaymer (Ger); E De La Riva (Esp); R Karlsson (Swe); S Khan (Eng); R Green (Aus); A Johnston (Eng); B Virto (Esp);
72 J Quesne (Fra); D Horsey (Eng); Z Blair (USA); B Evans (Eng); G Coetzee (RSA); S Lowry (Irl); J Jeong (Kor); E Van Rooyen (RSA); M Warren (Sco); L Canter (Eng); T Fleetwood (Eng); D Drysdale (Sco); J Walters (RSA); T Merritt (USA); S Webster (Eng); E España (Fra); P Dunne (Irl); A Meronk (Pol); P McGinley (Irl); F Zanotti (Par); N Fasth (Swe);
73 M Ilonen (Fin); O Fisher (Eng); R McEvoy (Eng); S Lee (Kor); R Dinwiddie (Eng); M Korhonen (Fin); B Grace (RSA); D Fichardt (RSA); R Evans (Eng); M Carlsson (Swe); B Wiesberger (Aut); M Madsen (Den); M Lorenzo-Vera (Fra); M Bremner (RSA); K Mueck (Aus); T Olesen (Den); D Willett (Eng); M Kieffer (Ger); G Forrest (Sco); D Lipsky (USA); N Dougherty (Eng); M Manassero (Ita); L Bjerregaard (Den); A Levy (Fra);
74 K Broberg (Swe); G Stal (Fra); C Hanson (Eng); B Rumford (Aus); B Hebert (Fra); T Linard (Fra); J Blaauw (RSA); G McDowell (Nir); F Aguilar (Chi); J Parry (Eng); J Hume (Irl); R Davies (Wal); T Van Der Walt (RSA); T Lewis (Eng); E Ferguson (Sco); J Winther (Den); A Wu (Chn); P Edberg (Swe); N Srithong (Tha); C Bezuidenhout (RSA); N Bertasio (Ita);
75 S Dyson (Eng); J Luiten (Ned); L Westwood (Eng); T Fisher Jnr (RSA); F Laporta (Ita); J Carlsson (Swe); C Sharvin (Nir); D Valente (Aus); D Dixon (Eng); B Stone (RSA); H Porteous (RSA); M Baldwin (Eng);
76 J Campillo (Esp); G Boyd (Eng); R Gouveia (Por); G Havret (Fra); O Wilson (Eng); S O’Hair (USA);
77 M Fitzpatrick (Eng); M Millar (Aus); T Immelman (RSA); O Bekker (RSA); S Gros (Fra); J Fahrbring (Swe); B Åkesson (Swe); M Siem (Ger); N Elvira (Esp);
78 M Southgate (Eng); R Wattel (Fra);
79 C Berardo (Fra);
80 R Kakko (Fin); A Quiros (Esp); M Goggin (Aus);