Richie Ramsay found Alexander Levy in his sights once again after the pair made promising starts for the second week in a row in a European Tour event.
Frenchman Levy, who also led the Spanish Open at Valderrama seven days ago, set the pace in the Shenzhen International at Genzon Golf Club with another 66.
It gave the 25-year-old, who fired a 62 at the same venue en route to his first European Tour title in the Volvo China Open in 2014, a two-shot lead in the clubhouse over Spaniard Eduardo de la Riva.
Ramsay is sitting a shot further back after the 32-year-old also matched his opening score from Valderrama, where he finished joint-29th behind England’s Andrew Marshall in his first outing for more than two months.
The three-time European Tour winner was challenging Levy for the lead at five-under par after 13 holes then stumbled to three straight bogeys before getting one of those shots back with a birdie on the 17th.
“I played lovely to get it to five-under,” Ramsay told European Tour radio. “I was just a little bit poor in the chipping, but then birdied the 17th, which was nice after a rough few holes.
“I also made a good par at the last, which is never an easy as it is a tough driving hole.”
Ramsay tied for 11th in this event 12 months ago, closing with rounds of 66 and 66 to finish just three shots behind the winner, Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat.
“I like the golf course,” he added. “It suits my eye and that’s one of the reasons that I made the trip.
“It’s tiring when you are travelling from Valderrama to China, so it’s a lovely start and a nice position going into tomorrow’s round.”
As Levy showed with his flawless six-birdie salvo, players were finding this test much easier than the one at Valderrama, where Johnston finished over par in claiming his maiden European Tour win.
“It is obviously softer out here,” said Ramsay. “That means a lot more aggressive plays and a lot more drivers off the tee for me this week. You can even be quite aggressive with a 4 or 5-iron to the flag as greens are holding.
“They are putting lovely and anything inside 15-20 feet you feel you can make them.”
Sitting alongside Ramsay is England’s Tommy Fleetwood, winner of the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles. He feels he has some “unfinished business” in the event after missing out on a play-off by a single shot 12 months ago.
Jamie McLeary, with a level-par 72, was the next best among the Scottish morning starters. His card contained four birdies but also a triple-bogey 7 at the 15th.
David Drysdale signed for a 73, three less than Andrew McArthur.
Three Scots - Ross Cameron, David Law and Peter Whiteford - opened with four-under-par 68s to sit in the top 20 in the Red Sea Egyptian Challenge at Sokhna Golf Club.
On a day when Englishman Jordan Smith set a hot pace with his 63, Cameron’s effort would have been particularly pleasing as he is playing on a sponsor’s invitation.
His card was flawless, too.
Law signed for an eagle and four birdies while Whiteford stormed to the turn in five-under 32 before following eight straight pars with a bogey to finish.
As Scott Henry also made a promising start with a 69, former Walker Cup player Smith carded an eagle and nine birdies in coming up one shot short of the course record.
He leads by two shots from Frenchman Joël Stalter, whose compatriot Romain Langasque, last year’s Amateur champion who is making his pro debut, shot 67.
Tony Jacklin has paired Scottish duo Matthew Clark and Barry Hume together for today’s opening session in the Concession Cup in Florida.
Clark (Kilmacolm) and Hume (Haggs Castle) are among five Scots in Jacklin’s Great Britain & Ireland team taking on a US side led by Jack Nicklaus in the biennial event at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton.
Also rubbing shoulders with two golfing legends this week are James Bunch (Prestwick), Ronnie Clark (Erskine) and David Gardner (Broomieknowe).
“It’s a great venue with amazing facilities,” Hume told Scottish Golf. “We’ve been made to feel very welcome at the club and by the members.
“Last night was the gala dinner and we also met Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin which was fantastic, before the foursomes start on Thursday.
“Matt and I will pair up, as we have done in the Scottish team, so we’re both looking forward to that.
“Friday is the fourballs, which we will enjoy, having taken some money off the English lads in practice.”