Chris Wood, the 21-year-old from Bristol who as an amateur finished a spectacular fifth in last summer’s Open at Birkdale, shone again today on a course which brings back more happy memories.
While American John Daly was down on one over par after the opening stretch of his first competitive round since December, Wood began the Spanish Open at PGA Golf Catalunya with three birdies in his first six holes.
The lay-out is the one where the 6ft 5in player also finished fifth in last November’s European Tour qualifying school, opening the door to his rookie season on the money-spinning circuit.
His start made him joint leader with Scot Chris Doak, who came joint 15th at the Tour school, and Spaniard Jose Manuel Lara.
Doak, first man to tee off on the 10th hole at 7.45am, had a hat-trick of birdies from the 14th, while Lara did the same from the short 11th.
Daly, given a six-month US Tour ban in November after being put in jail to sober up, underwent lap-band stomach surgery two months ago and has already brought his weight down from 20 stones to just over 16.
He is in Europe for the next month, but warned he was rusty and after four pars he bogeyed the 443-yard 14th and failed to birdie the two par fives on the back nine.
In the group behind, Colin Montgomerie ran up a bogey six by three-putting the 527-yard 12th – he was disturbed by a marshal in a buggy before playing a weak chip – but birdied the next to return to level par.
Wood, Doak and Lara were one in front of South African Charl Schwartzel, Norway’s Eirik Tage Johansen and England’s Robert Rock, but Spanish star Miguel Angel Jimenez was down on one over with Daly.
Jimenez’s bogey came on the 397-yard 13th when he had to put on waterproofs and roll up one trouser leg to play a shot from the edge of the lake short of the green.
He got the ball out, but could not get it close to the flag and missed the putt.