Padraig Harrington, left as the only Ryder Cup player at the Vivendi Cup in Paris after Swede Peter Hanson pulled out before the start with a chest infection, has birdied three of his first six holes.
But Colin Montgomerie’s most controversial wild card pick, who entered the event for some more practice after falling out of the FedEx Cup play-offs in America, still had a lot of catching up to do.
England’s David Dixon had an eagle and seven birdies in a nine under par 63 which was his lowest-ever round on the European Tour – and four better than his previous best this season.
The 33-year-old from Bridgwater stands only 145th on the money list and knows all too well that he needs to be in the top 115 to retain his Tour card.
Dixon led by three from compatriot James Morrison, Scot Andrew McArthur and Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen.
Hanson’s withdrawal before he teed off came as no surprise, the lowest-ranked member of Colin Montgomerie’s side having said on the eve of the event: “I was feeling okay up until yesterday.
“I got a bit of a chest infection, a bit of a cold. I have a little bit of fever.
“I’m a little bit worse today, so not ideal the way I want to prepare this week. But like Colin said, we don’t want to be sick next week, so I’ll try to treat that and see the doctor.
“There’s a lot of colds and stuff going around. Hopefully I will be ready Monday.
“If I feel as bad it’s no point being out here and wasting all of that energy instead of trying to feel better and fresher come next week.”
Hanson is not expected to play in the opening fourballs against the Americans tomorrow week, but with all 12 of the team already informed that they will be involved on the first day a foursomes introduction alongside the experienced Miguel Angel Jimenez appears most likely.