Ross McGowan fired a 7-under 64 for a two shot lead at the Castello Masters in Spain on Thursday.
The 29-year-old Englishman, who is currently 163rd on the money list and fighting for his European Tour future, had an eagle and five birdies in a flawless opening round.
"I'm not really thinking about The Race to Dubai at the moment," said McGowan, who has just one top-15 finish this year. "I'm just trying to play each shot at a time and put up a good result at the end of the week."
Two weeks ago, in Madrid, McGowan also started with a 64 only to find himself tied for 42nd by the time the weekend was done.
McGowan is two in front of compatriot Richard McEvoy and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti, and three clear of a group which includes Sergio Garcia on his home course and Northern Irishman Michael Hoey in his first appearance since winning the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title.
Hoey was six under with three to play, then followed a bogey on the short 16th with a double bogey before holing from off the green for birdie at the last.
Garcia, without a victory for almost three years, was down on one over after ten holes, but birdied five of the next eight.
Briton Tom Lewis is seven shots back after an opening round 71 which included four bogeys on his first nine holes and four birdies over his final five holes.
A sinus infection is threatening Lewis’s chances of following up last week’s Portugal Masters victory with a win this week.
“The head is really spinning, especially when I bend down, and I’ve got quite a temperature; it really affected my concentration,” Lewis told Reuters.
“I was pleased to come back with a good run because it was slipping away,” added the 20-year-old Englishman, who dropped four shots in seven holes to the turn to slide three over par but recovered with a run of birdies coming home.
Lewis added the Mediterraneo course did not suit his game.
“It’s going to be difficult for me this week. It’s not just the head, the course isn’t really set up for me. It’s very tricky and narrow, not like last week at Victoria where the fairways are wider and the greens bigger. You need a good short game and my short game isn’t my strongest point.”
The Englishman, whose victory in Portugal came in only his third event as a professional, played alongside Garcia on Thursday.
Garcia was the reason why he did not take the week off to prepare for his biggest event since leading the British Open in July - the elite, big-money WGC Champions tournament in Shanghai in two weeks’ time, Lewis said.
“I could have spent a week practising for Shanghai but I’d accepted an invite (to Castellon) and it would have reflected badly on my behalf if I had pulled out,” said Lewis. “And I didn’t want to let Sergio down. He was great to play with today and I hope he wins this week.”
John Daly sits at 2-over par after opening with a 73. The American was 3-under par through 10 holes before a bogey on No. 14 and back-to-back double bogeys on the final two holes. Playing partner Colin Montgomerie fared slightly better with just a single birdie for a round of 70.
Files from Reuters were used in this report
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