Marc Warren fared best out of a seven-strong Scottish contingent in the first round of the NBO Oman Open after Bradley Neil went from playing “near-perfect golf” to slipping down the leaderboard.
On a day when English duo Paul Waring and Matt Southgate carded matching seven-under-par 65s to share the lead in Muscat, Warren opened with a 69 to sit joint-12th in the historic event.
The 36-year-old made his score with a burst of three birdies in four holes at the start of his back nine at Al Mouj Golf, which is hosting Oman’s first European Tour event after staging the Challenge Tour Grand Final for the last three years.
Carding six birdies in total, Warren finished the day a shot ahead of compatriot Connor Syme and two in front of Paul Lawrie after they both compiled rounds containing four birdies.
Lawrie’s effort came in his first outing with Damian Moore, who caddied for Stephen Gallacher when he won the Dubai Desert Classic two years running, on the bag.
On his return after missing two scheduled events due to back trouble, David Drysdale signed for a 72 while Neil and Stephen Gallacher both had to settle for 74s after poor finishes.
Neil, who secured his European Tour card on this course last November, was out in 34, two-under, before moving to four-under with birdies at 12th and 13th.
However, that good work was undone as the 22-year-old then dropped six shots in four holes, going bogey, double-bogey, double-bogey, bogey in a damaging run.
“Very strange game at times!” he wrote later on Twitter. “Near perfect golf for first 13 holes and then car crash for last 5!”
Determined to stay positive heading into the second round, he added: “No worries though, regroup and go again tomorrow There are always positives! Never give up!!”
Playing with 2016 Ryder Cup captain Darren Clarke, Gallacher was two-under with four to play before following a bogey at the 15th with a triple-bogey 8 at the 16th.
Steven Troup, who hails from Portlethen but is now based in Muscat, where he coaches the national teams, had a five-over 77.
Richie Ramsay, who had been due to be the eighth Scot in the field, withdrew due to illness before teeing off.
“I caught a strong flu/cold which put me in bed and made my body hurt all over,” he said on social media. “I felt the best idea was to rest and get healthy.”
Southgate’s card was illuminated by a hole-in-one at the fifth - one of two aces on the opening day as German Marcel Siem also made one at the 13th.
In an astonishing coincidence, Southgate had Gary Tilston on his bag while Tilston’s twin brother, Guy, helped Siem pick his club.
“A bit of a strange one to have two twins pick the right club for two holes-in-one in the same day - I bet that will never happen again,” said Southgate.
Waring had to return to the Qualifying School at the end of last year to regain his card and missed the cut in his opening three events in 2018.
But, after a bogey-free effort, he admitted: “I played some of the best golf I’ve played for a little while. I felt really in control today.”
The two leaders sit a shot ahead of Dutchman Daan Huizing, with another two English players, Andy Sullivan and Callum Shinkwin, both on 67.
Elsewhere, Scottish players made a slow start in the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open at Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide.
Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew shot a two-over 74 while Michele Thomson struggled with the putter to finish on 75.
Melrose-born Karis Davidson, who now libes in Australia, also opened with a three-over effort, as did Edinburgh-based American Beth Allen, with her only birdie of the day coming on the 18th hole.
LPGA rookie Gemma Dryburgh carded one-under on her opening nine before faltering on the homeward half to finish six-over for the day.
South Korean golfers Jin Young Ko, and Jiyai Shin are on top of the leaderboard after brilliant opening rounds.
Playing in the afternoon, Shin shot a bogey free 67 while Ko fired nine birdies and two bogies to take the lead with seven-under 65s.
They are just in front of 10 players on four-under and a further 10 on three-under in a tightly-bunched field.
Back in the men’s game, Jack Doherty and Jack McDonald both opened with par-breaking efforts in the Dimension Data Pro-Am at Fancourt, where Paul Lawrie claimed the honours in the Sunshine Tour’s equivalent of the Dunhill Links Championship 12 months ago.
Doherty was out in three-under 33 before having to settle for a two-under 70 while McDonald picked up three birdies in the last six holes as he signed for a 71.
Englishman Toby Tree shares the lead with South African trio Garth Mulroy and Vaughn Groenewald and JC Ritchie on seven-under 65.
Elsewhere, former British Boys’ champion Ewen Ferguson started his 2018 campaign with a top-20 finish in the Ein Bay Open, an Alps Tour event, at Sokhna Golf Club in Egypt.
The 21-year-old bounced back from an opening 75 with encouraging rounds of 68 and 69 to finish on four-under in an event won by Italy’s Michele Cea with a 12-under 204 total.
“Nice way to make the cut,” said Ferguson of finishing birdie-eagle-birdie in the second roind, “and enjoying the sun and the prep for long season ahead.”
In the amateur ranks, Scottish champion Sam Locke climbed into the top 15 after the third round of the African Amateur Championship.
Bidding to keep the trophy in Scottish hands after Liam Johnston’s victory 12 months ago, the Stonehaven player bagged nine birdies as he carded a five-under-par 67 at Glendower Golf Club in Edenvale.
Locke sits in a share of 12th spot on level-par, a shot ahead of compatriot Euan Walker, but the pair look to have little chance of catching home man James du Preez after he moved to 13-under, seven clear of the field, after a flawless 64.