Former Ryder Cup star Peter Baker gave himself the chance to re-ignite his career with a five-under-par 67 when the Madeira Islands Open began today.
The 39-year-old from Wolverhampton, one of Ian Woosnam's assistants in last September's victory over the Americans in Ireland, lost his European Tour card three years ago and relies mostly on invitations for the chance to play now.
This was Baker's first start of the season and he built on two opening birdies by picking up further strokes on the fifth, sixth, 12th and 15th before dropping a shot on the short 17th. At one point, it gave him an early one-stroke clubhouse lead over Dane Mads Vibe-Hastrup.
One of Britain's most promising players when he turned professional in 1986, Baker was in just his second full season when he beat Nick Faldo in a play-off for the Benson and Hedges International at Fulford, grabbing an eagle on the final hole to tie and another when they went into sudden death.
His Ryder Cup cap came at The Belfry in 1993 and he picked up three points out of four, two of them with Woosnam as his partner. But he has not win a single event since and is without a top-10 finish for almost three years.