Tartan trio in top five as European Tour restarts in Austria

Howie, Warren and Syme all hit ground running at Diamond Country Club

Craig Howie tees off on the 13th hole at Diamond Country Club en route to a six-under-par 66 in the first round of the Austrian Open. Picture: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Tartan trio Craig Howie, Marc Warren and Connor Syme all hit the ground running to make their presence felt on the leaderboard in the European Tour's restart in the Austrian Open.

As Dutchman Joost Luiten set the pace with a seven-under-par 65 at Diamond Country Club, near Vienna, Howie and Warren shot matching 66s to sit joint-second, one shot ahead of Syme.

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Scott Henry also sits in the top 20 in the dual ranking event with the Challenge Tour after a 69, with Craig Ross adding to a good day's work from the Scottish contingent with a 70.

In the circuit's first event since the Qatar Masters in early March, Peebles man Howie set the clubhouse target with an impressive bogey-free morning effort.

"I'm absolutely delighted," said the 25-year-old, who rolled in a 15-footer at the last for his sixth birdie of the round.

"I wasn't really sure what to expect after four months off, so that was a surprise. It was good, though.

"It's the first time I've had a bogey-free round in a long, long time, so it is pretty satisfying, especially on a tough golf course."

While Howie is playing in just his second European Tour event, Warren is a three-time winner on the circuit and showed his class with a strong finish.

The 39-year-old hit a 3-wood from 270 yards to 12 feet to set up an eagle-3 at the 15th before rolling in a 20-footer to match Howie's closing birdie.

"I'm very pleased," he admitted afterwards. "You are never sure what it is going to be like once you are back out on the golf course.

"Strangely enough, with no crowds it was just like playing at home the last couple of weeks and I was just trying to keep my game free rather than trying to overthink it."

It was a caddie-free effort as he had to carry his own bag after his caddie didn't get his Covid-19 test back in time. "It's the first time I've done that competitively in 15 or 16 years," said Warren.

Syme, who finished second in the Shot Clock Masters on the same course two seasons ago, started his round with four birdies and had moved to six-under after 10 holes before dropping his only shot of the day at the par-4 11th.

"I got off to an amazing start," said the 25-year-old Fife. "If we’re being picky, is a bit disappointing. But I’d have taken minus five if somebody offered it. It was a nice, chilled round and nice to post a good number."

Luiten, a six-time European Tour winner, birdied three of the last four holes to grab the lead on a day when 56-year-old Spaniard Miguel Jimenez also started promisingly with a 68.

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