Dermot McElroy shot a solid three-under-par 67 to sit three off the lead after the first day of the Challenge de España at Club de Golf Playa Serena.
McElroy mixed five birdies with three bogeys in the sweltering heat to trail Kristoffer Broberg by three shots.
Broberg posted a six under par round of 64 to open a one-stroke lead after the first day’s play. The Swede carded eight birdies and two bogeys on a scorching hot day in Almería to move one ahead of Denmark’s Lucas Bjerregaard and Englishman Jack Senior, who share second place on five under par.
The two-time DP World Tour winner, who was suffering from physical fatigue at the start of the week, believes the lack of expectation allowed him to perform well in round one.
“I’m very pleased with my round today,” he said. “My game hasn’t been great this year but today everything seemed to click. I’m not getting ahead of myself because there’s a long way to go in this tournament.
“I haven’t managed to practice much this week because I needed some rest after the events in Sweden and Finland. My energy levels have been struggling and therefore I decided to stay in my hotel room and watch some television series. I’m trying to relax this week and let my game work itself out.”
Broberg, a four-time Challenge Tour winner, highlighted both his driving and wedge game as key to his six under opening round as he hopes to kickstart an upturn in form on the Road to Mallorca.
“I took an aggressive approach today and used a driver wherever possible. The driver is a strength in my game and it’s a club that I have great confidence in. The rough is particularly thick in places and accuracy off the tee has been key so far.
“The wind was consistent, but it is still not easy to predict. I was good with my wedges today and managed to put the ball close and give myself lots of birdie opportunities.”
Switzerland’s Benjamin Rusch, Austrian Niklas Regner, Frenchmen Benjamin Hébert and Romain Wattel, Germany’s Jannik De Bruyn and Dominic Foos, Spaniard Pedro Oriol and Swede Christopher Feldborg occupy a big tie for fourth place on four-under-par.
Home favourite Manuel Elvira is tied with McElroy on three-under-par. Stuart Grehan recovered from a double bogey on the twelfth, his third hole of the day to shoot a one-under par 69 and he sits in 40th place.
McElroy gets his second round underway at 9.40am local time with Stuart Grehan off at 2.30pm local time.