A year to go to the Ryder Cup, Colin Montgomerie had other things on his mind today after starting the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with a double-bogey six at Carnoustie.
Europe’s captain is one of the course record holders at the Open venue, but his 64 in the 1995 Scottish Open must seem a very long time ago.
Montgomerie has not had a top-10 finish since May last year, is 99th on the European Tour money list and 250th on the world rankings.
Partnering Tim Henman again in the pro-celebrity event – Henman is playing off a one-handicap now – Montgomerie hit back from his dreadful start on the 466-yard 10th, grabbing birdies at the next two.
But at level par he was five behind joint leaders Michael Hoey and Jeppe Huldahl.
Irishman Hoey, winner of the Portuguese Open in April, and Dane Huldahl, who captured the Wales Open in June, were both at Kingsbarns.
Hoey eagled the 558-yard ninth to turn in a superb 31, while Huldahl was out in 32 and then added a fifth birdie on the 11th.
They were one ahead of Ireland's Damien McGrane – also at Kingsbarns – while part of the large group on three under were Scot Richie Ramsay and Darren Clarke.
Ramsay came into the event only late last week because of Paul Casey’s injury and it was a vital tournament for the former US Amateur champion as he tried to climb into Europe’s top 115 and secure his card for next season.
Clarke eagled the 504-yard 12th at Carnoustie and was two ahead of playing partner Lee Westwood, who like Rory McIlroy and Ross Fisher can go top of the money list this weekend in the absence not only of Casey but also current leader Martin Kaymer.
McIlroy, partnering his father Gerry in the team event, was level par along with Ernie Els and Fisher one under, while Padraig Harrington, chasing a third win in the event, was two under after five.