England’s Ben Evans carded a six-under 65 to hold a one-shot lead after the first round of the KLM Open at The Dutch course in Spijk.
The 29-year-old carded seven birdies, four of them in succession from the 12th, with his only bogey coming at the 17th.
That left him one clear of eight players, including compatriot Chris Hanson and Sweden’s former Ryder Cup player Peter Hanson.
Evans experienced a dramatic end to the 2015 season when he shot a closing 65 at the final event in Hong Kong which looked to have saved his card, only to finish 111th on the Race to Dubai with only the top 110 retaining their playing privileges.
He was handed a late reprieve when Brooks Koepka failed to play the required number of events, but had been struggling for form this season and missing ten cuts in his last 13 events left him down at 143rd in the standings
“I holed a lot of putts early on, I hit a lot of greens and holed a lot of mid-range putts which made the difference today,” Evans told the European Tour’s official website.
“I am in a similar position to what I was last year in terms of my card. I need to play well to keep it but I am confident that I can do that. It only takes one good week to turn everything around and I hope this is the week.”
Last week’s European Masters winner Alex Noren carded a 69, while Chris Wood continued his preparations for a maiden Ryder Cup appearance at the end of the month with a round of 72.
The leading Scot in the field is Scott Jamieson whose three-under par round of 68 left him tied for 21st place. Marc Warren (70), Craig Lee, David Drysdale (both 71), Richie Ramsay (72), Stephen Gallacher, Andrew McArthur (both 73) and Jamie McLeary (74) completed the tartan contingent at the Colin Montgomerie-designed course in the Netherlands.
Defending champion Thomas Pieters, a captain’s pick in the Europe Ryder Cup team, pulled out of the tournament after being stung by a bee this week.
“One bee sting on Monday during the golf challenge against Joost Luiten led to a major allergic reaction with flu symptoms, and forced me to pull out of my favorite tournament of the year,” Pieters said in a statement.
l South African Lee-Anne Pace made nine birdies and two bogeys in an opening round of seven-under-par 65 to grab a one stroke lead at the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Scotland’s Pamela Pretswell and Amelia Lewis of the United States share fourth spot on four-under-par 68.