Stephen Gallacher transformed his opening round in spectacular fashion in the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco by sandwiching two birdies with his first albatross as a professional in the final three holes.
The late burst, which was highlighted by the recent Hero Indian Open winner holing a 3-iron from 240 yards, helped him card a five-under-par 68 at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam in Rabat, where he sits joint fourth, two shots behind pacesetter Jordan Smith.
“I had to flight it in a little bit,” said Gallacher of his majestic blow at the 577-yard eighth, having started at the tenth. “It was 240, so I was trying to land it 225 and run it up the green.
“It came off perfect, the trajectory was perfect and it got a good bounce. I thought it was going to run up to eight feet or something like that and it went in. I turned away and just heard everybody shout, so I was like, ‘oh, it’s in’. It was a nice feeling.”
The 43-year-old, who had been two over after five holes before ending his front nine with back-to-back birdies, was equally happy with a 6-iron at the next that capped his 3-2-2 finish in the Moroccan capital.
“It’s one of the toughest courses we play all year,” he added. “The greens are tough and you’ve got to hit it in the right spots. All facets of the game have to be firing. I was going along okay at par. I would have taken that today, but five under is better.”
On a day when Englishman Smith carded seven birdies in a bogey-free effort, Marc Warren was the only other Scot to break par with a 71 that left him tied for 17th.
Connor Syme started his Challenge Tour campaign in style by carding eight birdies in the opening round of the Turkish Airlines Open.
Six of the Scot’s gains came as he stormed home in 30 for a seven-under-par 65 at Samsun Golf Club on the Black Sea coast.
The excellent effort earned Syme a share of third spot as Italian Francesco Laporta produced a brilliant 10-under 62 to set a hot pace.
The 28-year-old carded an incredible four eagles – at the second, fourth, 14th and 15th holes – to lead by a shot from Dutchman Darius Van Driel.
“I played one of my best rounds ever today,” said Laporta. “It was my lowest round and now I hope to turn it into a good week.
Scotty Henry and Calum Hill joined Syme in getting off to promising starts in the first regular event of the season on the second-tier circuit.
They carded matching 68s to sit joint 21st on a day when Duncan Stewart (69), Jack McDonald (70) and Bradley Neil (71) also broke par.
Carly Booth, Kelsey Macdonald and Rachael Taylor have the leader in their sights after the first round of the LET’s Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco.
The tartan trio all opened with level-par 73s at Royal Dar Es Salam in Rabat, where Lina Boqvist carded a stunning 65 to claim a two-shot lead over fellow Swede Camilla Lennarth and past champion Nuria Iturrios.
“It was a great round and I think I played the best golf of my career on the LET,” said Boqvist.
Macdonald made her score with three birdies in a row from the first, while Booth and Taylor both signed for three birdies.