Scott Henry evoked memories of Seve Ballesteros becoming the “car park champion” in the 1979 Open at Royal Lytham as he earned a share of the first-round lead in the Nordea Masters.
The 29-year-old, who is playing in just his fourth European Tour event this year, carded a flawless five-under-par 67 at Bro Hof Slott to top the leaderboard along with fellow Scot Marc Warren and four others.
Former SSE Scottish Hydro Challenge champion and this season’s Spanish Open winner Andrew Johnston is among that quartet while three-time winner Lee Westwood is ominously placed, a shot off the lead.
However, it was a good day’s work for both Henry and Warren, with the former delighted that staying brave when he was faced with hitting a shot over an expensive sports car sitting bang in front of him at the last had paid off.
“I was pretty solid off the tee until the last hole, where I ended up in a car park,” said the Clydebank man. “But I got a line-of-sight drop and then played probably my best shot of the day for an easy par.
“It (the sports car) wasn’t looking that lovely when it was sitting just 20 feet in front of me and I think the owner was a bit nervous. My caddie was trying to talk me out of it, but I’m a pretty aggressive player and I was delighted I managed to pull it off.”
Henry’s card was illuminated by an eagle at the 13th, which followed three front-nine birdies at the third, sixth and ninth. He was delighted with his effort on a course measuring more than 7,500 yards.
“To go bogey-free round that course is more than I could have asked really as there are some tough par-4s out there,” admitted Henry.
“I’ve been playing okay on the Challenge Tour after just missing out on getting my full card back last year.
“But I feel more comfortable playing on these strong courses, where, if you hit it well you get rewarded. Sometimes on the Challenge Tour courses are not set up as tough.”
Henry, who just missed out on a play-off in the 2013 Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, made the cut in both the Tshwane Open and Joburg Open earlier in the season before finishing joint-35th in the Hassan Trophy in Morocco last month.
“I’m probably more relaxed due to the fact I’m not getting into as many tournaments as I would like (on the European Tour),” he admitted. “Whenever they do come up it’s a case of having a go and enjoying it.
“I’ve made the cut in all three so far this year without doing anything special but hopefully we can do better this week.”
Warren, who pulled out of Monday’s US Open qualifier at Walton Heath after missing the cut in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, signed for seven birdies, including three in the last four holes.
“It’s a great start,” said the three-time European Tour winner. “The wind was starting to pick up towards the end of our round, so conditions got a bit trickier, but the course was immaculate and the greens were perfect, so I was still able to make some birdies and walk off with a very nice score.
“Things have been a lot better in the last few weeks. I’ve been making a lot more birdies and making a lot less mistakes, so that’s a pretty good combination.”
French duo Clement Berardo and Sebastian Gros also carded 67s, as did German Florian Fritsch, while former world No 1 Westwood was among a posse of players to open with a 68.
Westwood came into the event on the back of a disappointing result in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, where he went into the final round two shots off the lead but struggled to a closing 76.
However, having finished second in the Masters and 10th in the Irish Open in his previous two starts, the 43-year-old believes a 24th European Tour title could be just around the corner.
“Obviously it’s nice to come back to places you’ve won on before, but I’m more happy with the fact that I’m starting to hit the ball really well and seeing the flight on the shots that I like and on the greens I rolled the ball really well today,” Westwood said after a round containing six birdies and two bogeys.
“My short game has been sharp for quite some time now so I do really feel like I should start winning tournaments again soon.
“It’s not an easy golf course, there’s a lot of water out there and a bit of breeze. You have to hit the ball well as it’s very long, but there are a lot of birdie chances out there if you hit the ball in the fairway.”
Westwood won his first European Tour title in Sweden in 1996 and also tasted success in 2000 and 2012, as well as finishing runner-up in 2001.
The last of those wins came at this week’s venue and a repeat performance from the nine-time Ryder Cup player would make him the first to win the event four times, with Colin Montgomerie and Seve Ballesteros having also won on three occasions.