England's John Parry left nine of Europe's Ryder Cup side trailing in his wake at St. Andrews on Friday -- in an event he wasn’t even qualified for until he won his first European Tour title two weeks ago.
The 23-year-old from Harrogate, a teammate of Rory McIlroy at the 2007 Walker Cup, led the European Tour’s Dunhill Links Championship by four at halfway after a brilliant 65.
"It's nice to be here and I've holed putts from everywhere," said Parry, who has gone from struggling to keep his European Tour card to getting on course for a winnner’s check of about $750,000.
His Vivendi Trophy victory in Paris was worth almost $250,000 and he celebrated that by buying himself a car -- not a Lamborghini, Ferrari or Porsche, but a Vauxhall Astra.
"I would have bought something a bit nicer, but I've only just learnt to drive, so the insurance companies don't seem to like me at the minute,” he said. “And my parking's not very good."
Parry turned pro three years ago like McIlroy, but while the Irish wonder boy was an instant hit, Parry failed to come through Q-School and had to go away to the "third division" EuroPro Tour.
"I didn't have any money at all, but my manager sort of backed me and I think I came out about even," he said.
From that he earned a place on the Challenge Tour and, thanks to a closing 63 for a win in this same week last year, he graduated from that to the main circuit.
“It’s a confidence thing, especially after that (Vivendi Trophy) win knowing that you can finish the job off and that’s how I have pushed on now,” Parry said. “I like to say that this I feel has been coming for some time
“I made five cuts in a row before the Vivendi event. I was striking the ball well then, but in my last two events I have started holing putts and I hope it continues over the weekend.”
While the Vivendi tournament drew only one player ranked inside the top 84 in the world, the Dunhill Links field includes nine members of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team.
Sweden's Martin Erlandsson, yet to win on the European Tour, is in second place after a 68 in equally tough wet, windy, cold and murky conditions at Carnoustie, the hardest of the three courses used for the celebrity pro-am event that is similar to the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on the PGA Tour.
Three players are a further stroke back -- big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros and Ryder Cup players Ross Fisher and Martin Kaymer. They were all at St Andrews, Fisher having a 68 and both Quiros and Kaymer 69s.
"When we saw the forecast it seemed like this was probably the best of the three courses to be at, but that was about as brutal as I've ever seen the back nine play,” Fisher said. "I wouldn't have come here if I didn't feel like my game was ready to win. Obviously the celebrations were pretty good, but I wouldn't say I feel tired."
Monday's Ryder Cup-winning hero Graeme McDowell, playing with his father Kenny, also shot 68 to move up to sixth place on 6 under, while Padraig Harrington, Ryder Cup Vice-Captain Thomas Bjorn and defending champion Simon Dyson are all 5 under.
Lee Westwood was bothered again by his injured calf and with a 72 is now 10 back. He needs a top-two finish to grab the world No. 1 spot off Tiger Woods and is just outside the top 30. But his 2-under aggregate was still three better than that of McIlroy, who drove into gorse and double-bogeyed the sixth en route to a 74.
"I didn't make the most of the downwind holes," said the 21-year-old, less surprised than most about world No. 177 Parry being clear out in front.
"It's taken him maybe a bit longer to develop than some of the other guys (from the Walker Cup three years ago),” said McIlroy of Parry. “But he's a great player and with a win under his belt he's obviously become a lot more comfortable out in this environment."
Ryder Cup Captain Colin Montgomerie had his second successive 72 -- not bad for the world No. 425.