Paul O’Hara, the winner at Moray four years ago, set the pace in the shortened 2021 edition with a bogey-free eight-under-par 64 as his class shone through once again on the Tartan Tour.
The North Lanarkshire Leisure-attached player picked up birdies at second and fifth going out then came home in 30 following gains at the 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th.
More of the same in the second and final circuit and O’Hara will be hard to catch, but Doak, who is attached to The Renaissance Club, and Lanark’s Stephen Gray both have the pacesetter in their sights after matching 66s.
Doak, who first landed the title in 2005 before repeating the feat three years later, birdied the first four holes then the sixth and ninth to be out in 30.
He started for home with three bogeys in a row before bouncing back with birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th
“I had a lesson from Paul Lawrie yesterday on my short game and it’s night and day. Basically, that’s the difference,” said Doak of his effort.
“I’m being coached by Alan White and I have been striking it really well, but it left me today.
It’s weird this game. One week you hit it good and not wedge it close and the next week you are not hitting it as good but hitting wedges close.”
Looking ahead to the final circuit, he added: “There’s a lot of good players here. There are loads of opportunities, so more of the same and I think I will be there or thereabouts.”
Gray carded eight birdies, including two in final three holes, in his effort, with Scott Henderson and Gavin Hay both on five-under along with Auchterarder amateur Rory Franssen.
Alastair Forsyth, another two-time champion, is in a group on 69 along with fellow European Tour Andrew Oldcorn and Graham Fox, but defending champion Ross Cameron had to settle for a par-72.