England’s Ross McGowan shot an 8-under par 64 Thursday for a one-shot lead after the opening round of the Bankia Madrid Masters on the European Tour.
McGowan, whose lone European Tour victory was in Madrid two years ago, leads Brett Rumford of Australia, Lorenzo Gagli of Italy and tournament host Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano of Spain. Defending champion Luke Donald of England was four shots behind after shooting 68.
BANKIA MADRID MASTERS
The Bankia Madrid Masters is making its first appearance at the new El Encín Golf Hotel, which features a Robert Von Hagge design in the shadow of the mountains of the Santos del la Humosa region northwest of Madrid.
The 29-year-old McGowan said the key was “finding the right spots on the greens and holing the putts.”
Donald blamed “careless mistakes” for his opening-round score at the El Encin Golf Hotel course.
McGowan, ranked No. 492, carded 10 birdies -- including five in succession from the ninth hole -- for his best European Tour round in three years.
Gagli's compatriot Edoardo Molinari follows in outright fifth place on 6 under, with a host of players one shot further back and world No. 1 Donald heading another sizeable group at 4 under.
McGowan birdied three of the first four holes but it was around the turn where his round took flight, with those five successive birdies from the ninth. Two more followed in the final three holes to leave him on top, despite recording his second bogey at the 15th.
Fernandez-Castano was on track for a share of top spot in his home event until he bogeyed the par-5 last, but his stunning front nine -- he also hit five birdies in a row, from the third -- kept him firmly in the picture.
Gagli, by contrast, timed his run late, with an outward 34 that was no more than solid followed by an eagle at the 11th and a closing birdie hat trick.
Rumford, meanwhile, started at the 10th with back-to-back birdies and hit five more in six holes between the 17th and fourth on a solid card.
Molinari made a steady beginning to his round after starting at the 10th, with eight successive pars before a birdie at the 18th and an eagle at the par-5 first sparked a surge to 6 under. The Italian picked up another shot at the par-3 fifth before closing with two more birdies.
That left him a shot ahead of a nine-strong group at 5 under, which included his brother Francesco, who carded three successive birdies from the sixth in a bogey-free round.
The group also featured three more Englishmen -- Steve Webster, Graeme Storm and Lee Slattery -- and two Spaniards, Alvaro Quiros and Eduardo de la Riva, and was completed by Welshman Bradley Dredge, Swede Peter Hanson and Tano Goya of Argentina.
Donald started at the 10th and was 1 one under at the turn, having tempered three birdies with dropped shots at the 12th and 18th. But three birdies on his second nine lifted him into a tie with fellow Englishman Oliver Wilson, Scots David Drysdale and Richie Ramsay, Spain's Ignacio Garrido, South Americans Mark Tullo and Cesar Monasterio and Thomas Norret of Denmark.