In the second leg of a DP World Tour double-header at Al Hamra Golf Club, Kiwi Ryan Fox came in late in the day with a course record-equalling nine-under-par 63 to lead by one from Portugal’s Ricard Gouevia.
But, while Nicolai Hojgaard had to settle for a 71 after ripping the same course apart last week when winning with a 24-under total, it was a productive first circuit for most of the Scots in the field.
Drysdale and MacIntyre carded matching 66s, one less than Howie, while David Law, Richie Ramsay and Connor Syme all opened with 69s to make it six Saltires in the top 30.
Having missed the cut in the Ras Al Khaimah Championship, Drysdale was probably the most pleased among the tartan troops, especially after finding himself one-over early on in his round.
“I’m one-over through six and thinking, ‘jeez don’t look at the leaderboard because I might be five or six behind so early in the round’,” said the 46-year-old
Back-to-back birdies at the seventh and eighth helped rectify the situation by the turn before he stormed home with five birdies, including four in the last five holes.
“It was a nice way to finish,” added Drysdale. “It was quite a chilled last few holes and the birdies started to come, so maybe that’s the key.”
MacIntyre, who was in contention last week before faltering in the final round, signed for seven birdies, three of which came straight after his only bogey of the day.
The 25-year-old is working with his new performance coach, Stuart Morgan, on his expectation levels, having felt he’d “struggled a bit with that”.
MacIntyre said of that process: “Stuart got me to watch a movie last night and it’s just about trying to stay in the present.”
Howie, who has hit the ground running at the start of his DP World Tour career, signed for six birdies, one more than Ramsay, while Law was bogey-free as he produced the perfect response to a disappointing closing round on Sunday.
Fox set the pace thanks to a 10-birdie salvo. “It’s the first time I’ve shot 63 out here, “ said the 35-yar-old. “I’ve shot some pretty low scores at home but struggled to bring that out here at times. It was nice to get in the zone.”
On the Challenge Tour, Euan Walker came home in six-under for a four-under 69 in the opening round of the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt in South Africa. He sits joint-23rd, five off the lead.
On day one of the new LET season, Heather MacRae fared best among the Scots with a two-over 74 in the Magical Kenya Ladies Open at Vipingo Ridge.”I had a couple of bad swings and missed a short putt on 17th, but it was pretty solid, so overall I’m pretty happy,” she said.
Only four players broke par in testing conditions, led by Swede Linnea Strom, who fired a four-under 68 to sit two shots clear.