Thomas Pieters and Eddie Pepperell pressed their Ryder Cup claims in style as two-time major champion John Daly rolled back the years in the D+D Real Czech Masters.
Playing alongside vice-captain Padraig Harrington, Pieters carded a flawless 64 at Albatross Golf Resort to share the first round lead on eight under par with Daly, England’s Callum Tarren and Malaysia’s Gavin Green.
And Pepperell, who needs to win in Prague to have a chance of moving into the final automatic qualifying place for Thomas Bjorn’s European team, was just two shots off the pace after firing seven birdies and a solitary bogey in his 66.
Scots rookie Connor Syme also shot 66 to sit in a tie for tenth place.
Pieters won a record four points on his Ryder Cup debut at Hazeltine in 2016 after being given a wild card by captain Darren Clarke following a runners-up finish in Prague and victory in Denmark the following week.
“I’d rather go one better here and then do the same next week but I’m going to worry about tomorrow first and then Saturday, a day at a time,” the 26-year-old said.
“I drove it pretty well and I putted really nicely. I’m just keeping going whatever I had going in America [where he was sixth in the US PGA] and I’m happy with the start.”
While Pieters definitely has to rely upon a wild card, Pepperell can force his way into the automatic places with a second win of the season, although the 27-year-old Englishman was typically self-deprecating about his chances.
“Apparently I could be close to the Ryder Cup team, but it’s not something I’m focused on,” Pepperell said.
“If I hit a bad six iron then I’m so angry with that that the Ryder Cup is well out of the mind, but that’s a good thing that I’m like that right now and I intend it to stay that way.
“I don’t feel any extra pressure, I’m sure Thomas doesn’t want me on his team!
Usually I’m a slow starter so to have given myself something to build on this early in the week is pleasing.”
Daly won the 1991 US PGA and 1995 Open Championship, but the 52-year-old sponsor’s invite is currently 1,430th in the world after an injury-plagued season.
“It’s been one of those years where I’ve been hitting it really good, I’ve just been injured and having to pull out,” said Daly, who missed the Open at Carnoustie due to a knee injury.
“I don’t feel great but I got around today and I just played solid golf and it’s great.”