ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson boosted his chances of regaining his European Tour card Thursday by carding an 8-under 64 to sit in a five-way tie for the lead after the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Wilson made the most of his sponsor's invitation by making an eagle and six birdies in bright but windy conditions on Kingsbarns. Fellow Englishmen Tom Lewis and Richard McEvoy also shot a 64, along with Chile's Mark Tullo and Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka.
The players alternate between Kingsbarns, St. Andrews and Carnoustie over the first three rounds. The event matches professionals with celebrities and amateurs in a format similar to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the PGA Tour.
Wilson competed in the 2008 Ryder Cup at Valhalla, but lost his tour card at the end of the 2011 season and has been playing on the secondary Challenge Tour since.
"For the first time in probably over a year actually, I have some control over my shots and I'm able to hit the shots and trust it under pressure," Wilson said. "We've played some good courses the last few weeks on the Challenge Tour and I've played well, and that's built my confidence and I have a chance now to earn back my card in a few various ways."
Kaleka had a stretch of four straight birdies on St. Andrews as he looks to secure a first tour victory and continue the recent streak of success for French golfers.
"It's been a great month for French golf with Gregory Bourdy winning the Wales Open and Julien Quesne winning last week's Italian Open," the 26-year-old Kaleka said. "But today was very special for me as I have played the Old Course many times before as an amateur in the St. Andrews Links Trophy, but this 64 is my lowest round."
Another five players are tied for sixth, one shot behind, including recent Johnnie Walker Championship winner Tommy Fleetwood.
Former Dunhill champion Nick Dougherty of England was in last place after needing 12 strokes on the par-4 18th hole at Carnoustie, which the 2007 winner was playing as his ninth.
Dougherty was already 3 over par and proceeded to put two balls out of bounds on the 18th and signing for an eventual round of 86 that left him 7 shots behind the nearest golfer.
Former U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell of New Zealand was forced to withdraw from his third straight event after badly twisting his ankle on the sixth at Kingsbarns. A bout of food poisoning had forced Campbell out of the recent Omega European Masters, and he then withdrew a week later after one round of the KLM Open.