Scotland's Scott Jamieson, playing just the 11th European Tour event of his career, tops the leaderboard after Thursday’s first round of the Spanish Open.
The 27-year-old Glaswegian shot a 6-under-par 66 at El Prat to end Day 1 ahead of England's Steve Webster, Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, France's Romain Wattel and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal. Already with two top-10 finishes this season after graduating from the Challenge Tour, Jamieson grabbed eight birdies and would have been farther out front but for bogeys at the 14th and fourth.
2011 SPANISH OPEN
The Spanish Open will be played over a composite layout made up of the back nine of Real Club de Golf's Yellow Course and the back nine of its Pink Course.
He is a former student at Augusta State in Georgia and dreams of returning there one day to play in the Masters.
"We were allowed to play the course once a year and that was thrilling," he said. "I didn't get a wink of sleep the night before the first time I played. In my first three rounds I shot 80 -- same as Rory McIlroy last month, of course -- and on my fourth I finally had a respectable 74.
"Not to make excuses, we always played in the winter when it was cold and wet,” he added. "You look at the first hole and during the Masters those guys are hitting 9-iron and wedge into the green, but my shortest second shot was a 4-iron. It's a really special place."
Webster, 36, has still to make it to the Masters 16 years after beating Tiger Woods to the top amateur prize in the British Open at St Andrews. Twice a winner in nearly 400 European Tour events, the Enlgishman had seven birdies and two bogeys.
Former French Open champion Larrazabal is playing on his home course.
"I was ready to play in front of my people and have been dreaming of this round for a long time -- since October, when we knew the tournament was here,” he said. "I know everything about this course. I know where to hit, where to miss and when to attack."
His brother Alex, the British Amateur champion eight years ago, is now the caddie for Jose Maria Olazabal, but the two-time Masters winner had to settle for a level-par 72.
Colin Montgomerie, Olazabal's predecessor as Ryder Cup captain and without a top-10 finish for almost three years, was 3 under with three to play, but had a double-bogey 6 on the 470-yard 16th after hitting his second into the middle of the lake right of the green. The 47-year-old came back with a birdie, though, and handed in a 70.
That was better than tournament favorites Miguel Angel Jimenez, Matteo Manassero and defending champion Alvaro Quiros.
Jimenez, runner-up to Lee Westwood in Korea on Sunday, had a 71; 18-year-old Manassero 73 on his return three weeks after his second European Tour win in Malaysia; and Quiros a disappointing 74.
Back from a three-month ban following an investigation into his ballmarking at a Challenge Tour event last September, Elliot Saltman double-bogeyed the opening hole, but recovered to match Olazabal's 72.
"I didn't feel under complete control, which is not the nicest feeling in the world, but the only real blip was on the fourth,” said Jamieson. "I thought I was out of bounds and my provisional was in a bunker, but the ball was about a yard in. I bogeyed, but it looked like it might have been a 7."