Former Ryder Cup Captain, Paul McGinley mustered some old magic to take a share of second spot after day one of the MCB Tour Championship in Mauritius.
Starting from the 10th, the Dubliner put on a birdie bonanza, firing five on his way to the turn in just 31 strokes.
The chances dried up on his inward half, just one bogey and a birdie cancelling each other out, but home in 36, he signed for a superb five-under-par round of 67 with McGinley encouraged after a rare fast start in senior company this season.
“It was a solid round,” said McGinley. “I had a great start on the front nine but didn’t give myself any chances on the back nine.
“The key to playing golf on the Staysure Tour is having a fast start. If you shoot 71 or 72 in the first round you’re out of it because the standard is so good – 15 under is the number to go for every week. It’s something I’ve not done a lot this year. I opened with a 72 last week in Spain and found myself in that position.
“You have to be on it early because the standard is so good. At least now I’m on the pace early, but I still have to do better than this over the next two rounds.”
Of Ireland’s two other challengers, Mark McNulty signed for a one-over-par 73 that puts him in a share of 37th while Headfort’s Brendan McGovern returned a disappointing four-over-par 76 that resigns him to a share of 46th spot after day one.
At the top sits reigning Number One Clark Dennis who returned to an all-too-familiar position on his first Staysure Tour start in three months after carding a nine-under-par round of 63 to top the leaderboard.
His total of 63 is his joint-lowest on the Staysure Tour and just one stroke off the course record at Constance Belle Mare Plage, which was set last year by Jarmo Sandlin and then equalled by defending champion Thaworn Wiratchant.
The American, a three-time winner on the European over-50s circuit since earning his card at last year’s Qualifying School, made the turn in three under par after birdies on the fourth, fifth and seventh holes, and then came home in just 30 strokes as he carded four birdies and an eagle on the back nine to move to nine under par.
“It was one of those days where everything went right,” said Dennis. “It’s not often you chip in twice during a round – one for an eagle and the other for par.
“It’s a funny game. My game didn’t feel great coming into this week, I didn’t feel good physically; so you never know.
“My eldest son Will sent me a video of me working with a teacher from four or five years ago and he said: ‘just watch it Dad’. I noticed a little change in my posture and it just made that much difference.
“There’s a lot of great players to go up against over the next two days. You can’t rest, you have to keep making birdies out there. Thaworn finished level par today but he could easily go 18 under over the next two days.
“My son Philip was an all-star on the bag today. It’s the second time I’ve shot a 63 with him as my caddie – I’m sure he’ll be texting his older brother, who has caddied for me before, saying that he’s taking his job.”
Dennis is four strokes ahead of 2016 Rookie of the Year Magnus P Atlevi, 2014 Ryder Cup Captain McGinley, 2002 Ryder Cup player Phillip Price and last year’s Order of Merit runner-up Chris Williams who share second place on five under par.
Sharing sixth place on four under par are two-time Senior Major Champion Roger Chapman, Spain’s Miguel Angel Martin, former Ryder Cup player Jarmo Sandelin, VTB Russian Open Golf Championship winner David Shacklady and 1991 Masters Tournament winner and 2006 Ryder Cup Captain Ian Woosnam.