Jonathan Caldwell produced his lowest round of the season, a six-under par 65 to stamp his name on the first page of the leaderboard on day one of the Portugal Masters.
The Clandeboye professional arrived to Vilamoura off the back of a bruising four rounds in Valderrama but looked no worse for wear in making the turn in one under after trading two birdies with one bogey.
However, it was on the way home that the 36-year old really burst into life, picking up five shots in his closing seven holes to sign for a 65 at minus-six, currently good enough for a share of third.
It’s a solid foundation for Caldwell upon which to build and with one top-10 already banked at the Betfred British Masters since the restart, he’ll be hoping to go a few places better than his tied 8th at the Lee Westwood hosted event.
Meanwhile, Cormac Sharvin had to settle for a round of 70 after racing to three-under par through five holes on the Dom Pedro Victoria course.
The Ardglass pro had bounced back from a second hole bogey with a birdie, birdie, eagle run but dropped two more shots as the birdies dried up around the turn before signing for a one-under par effort.
Gavin Moynihan is a shot further back after returning a bit of a mixed bag in his even par 71. The Island golfer had plenty of good stuff to show for his opening effort that included five birdies but will need to cut out the mistakes after also carding five bogeys.
Liam Johnston produced the lowest round of his European Tour career at Dom Pedro Victoria Golf Course, firing a sparkling round of 61 to lead by one shot at the end of the opening day.
At nine-under par through 16 holes the Scot was in contention to match the historic 59 Oliver Fisher shot here two years ago. He narrowly cleared the water with his approach into the par five 17th but could not hole his eagle putt from range. A par on the last took the two-time European Challenge Tour winner to ten under par, one shot ahead of Frenchman Julien Guerrier.
“With the rough out there it’s nice to keep the bogeys off the card,” said Johnston.
“I saved well when I needed to and holed a lot of putts out there. Delighted with the ten birdies.
“I told my coach back home I was swinging it as good as I ever have, and my game feels like it’s trending in the right direction. More importantly, I’m in a really good place mentally. I didn’t see a round like this coming, but I felt like I was playing well.
“I had no idea (that 59 was a possibility). I was just talking to Kristoffer Broberg there and just noticed it was a 71, I thought it was a par 72. Obviously, I was trying to hole that putt on 17 to make eagle and just left it a little bit short. Nice par on the last.”
England’s Laurie Canter is at seven under par after a round of 64, as all of the leading three players went bogey-free in Vilamoura. Northern Ireland’s Jonathan Caldwell is at six under par, one shot ahead of South African George Coetzee, England’s Matthew Jordan, Dane Thorbjørn Olesen and Sebastian Soderberg of Sweden.
A group of 12 players are then at four under par, with World Number 16 Tommy Fleetwood and the highest-placed Portuguese player Tomás Bessa amongst a further eight players at three under par.
Meanwhile, India’s Shubhankar Sharma recorded the first albatross on the 2020 Race to Dubai, holing out from 241 yards with his second shot on the 588 yard par 17th hole.
Full scoring HERE