Victor Dubuisson of France overcame tough scoring conditions to shoot a 4-under 68 Thursday and take a two-shot lead after the first round of the Ballantine's Championship on the European Tour.
Cold weather and a fierce wind made for high scores at Blackstone Golf Club, with only 17 of the 156 players finishing under par.
Dubuisson had eight birdies, but didn’t escape the thick undergrowth lining many of the holes, making a double bogey at the fourth hole and starting his round from the 10th tee with a bogey.
He leads a group of five players at 2 under, including Paul Casey of England.
British Open champion Darren Clarke shot a 77. He has failed to finish higher than 20th in any tournament since his victory at Royal St. George's last July.
Dubuisson has yet to win in two seasons on the European Tour, but finished fourth in the Volvo China Open last weekend to pick up some momentum.
''I made a 5-meter putt to save bogey at the 10th, my first hole, and a 5-meter putt to save par at my second hole,'' he said. ''That made all the difference because under the conditions if I had missed the putts twice I could have gone into a negative cycle.
''I always drive the ball well, but when my short game is good it can make the difference of four or five strokes to the score.''
Joining Casey at 2 under were Jung Ji-ho of South Korea, Richie Ramsay of Scotland, Jamie Donaldson of Wales and Mark Foster of England.
Australia's Adam Scott was among a group of 11 players at 1 under, three shots adrift of Dubuisson.
''It was always going to be challenging,'' Scott said. ''With the wind when you play on the side of the mountain it's going to be a tough week because of the changes of elevation.''
Also tied with Scott were Oliver Fisher and Ross Fisher of England and Irishman Paul McGinley.
Casey, who only recently returned to playing following a shoulder injury, believes he can challenge for the title if he finds some consistency.
"I know if I play the golf I'm capable of, I've got a very good chance to win," said the Englishman. "The way I played today, I need to keep that form going because there's a long way to go."