Thomas Pieters continued his love affair with Albatross Golf Resort as he equalled the course record to take a share of the first-round lead at the D+D Real Czech Masters.
Pieters was a winner at this event in 2015 before finishing second the following year and his eight under par 64 saw him back at the top of the leaderboard alongside two-time Major Championship winner John Daly, England’s Callum Tarren and Malaysian Gavin Green.
Reigning Road to Oman champion Tapio Pulkkanen was in the group a shot behind alongside Spaniard Nacho Elvira, Italian Andrea Pavan, England’s Lee Slattery and Dane Jeff Winther.
The four leaders all had their rounds interrupted by a storm delay of an hour and 15 minutes in the afternoon but showed no signs of distraction as they joined Scott Jamieson, Mikael Lundberg and Paul Peterson in the history books.
Belgian Pieters followed his runner-up finish in Prague with a win the following week as he earned himself a Captain’s Pick for the Ryder Cup two years ago and he will be hoping to do the same over the next fortnight.
South Africa’s challenge got off to a slow start with defending champion Haydn Porteous needing a strong finish to dip under par on Thursday.
The young South African got off to the perfect start with a birdie on his first hole but a double at the next and two bogeys before the turn left him well off the pace. Three gains in a row from the fourth and a birdie to close helped Porteous match Justin Walters and Christiaan Bezuidenhout on day one.
Dean Burmester was one shot further back with last week’s runner-up Thomas Aiken one over par through 18.
SA’s best on Thursday were European Tour invitee JC Ritchie and tour rookie Jacques Kruyswijk. Both carded opening 70s but will need even better performances on Friday with their place in the weekend far from safe.