PARIS -- Anders Hansen of Denmark shot a 5-under 66 to lead by a stroke after the first round of the Alstom French Open on a golf course that punished some of the main contenders on Thursday.
Hansen made seven birdies and two bogeys on the Albatross Course of Le Golf National, which will host the Ryder Cup in 2018.
''You do want to stay out of the rubbish, and there's plenty of it out there,'' Hansen said. ''Every hole there's something. One bad shot and all of a sudden you're staring at double. It's just tough out there.''
Hansen finished fourth at the 2009 French Open and his best result this year is a third place at the Malaysian Open in March.
Frenchman Romain Wattel was in second place, one stroke clear of nine players who shared third place, including Martin Kaymer of Germany.
The 22-year-old Wattel tied for third at the Lyoness Open last month in Austria and wound up fourth in April at the Ballantine's Championship in Seoul.
Past winners Kaymer (68) and Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain (69) stayed in contention, along with 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland (69) and American Matt Kuchar (70).
''If you hit off line out here, you lose your ball basically,'' McDowell said. ''It's a very punishing golf course.''
Kuchar is second in the Fedex Cup rankings behind Tiger Woods and is making his French Open debut.
''It was an amazing reception on the first tee,'' Kuchar said. ''It just made me feel very welcome. I was excited to get around and going.''
Ranked 1,560th in the world, Thomas Pieters of Belgium had a share of third place until the last hole, where he made a double bogey for a 70 to slip to 24th. The 21-year-old Pieters, a star at the University of Illinois where he was coached by PGA Professional Mike Small, turned pro last month and is playing for the first time on the European Tour.
Former top-ranked Luke Donald of England birdied his last two holes to limit the damage with an even-par 71.
''This is a course that demands a lot of precision,'' Donald said. ''If you're a little bit off, it can bite you. It bit me on 18.''
Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter (73) of England, Matteo Manassero (73) of Italy, defending champion Marcel Siem (78) of Germany and Danish prodigy Thorbjorn Olesen (78) will need a good second round on Friday to make the cut.