Marcus Fraser and Matt Wallace both birdied their final holes to take a share of the lead after a challenging opening day of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
The two men are having contrasting seasons on the European Tour, with Wallace a three-time winner in 2018 and Fraser battling to keep his playing privileges from 175th in the Race to Dubai Rankings presented by Rolex.
On a day of high winds and very difficult scoring, the Australian carded a 68 at the Championship Course Carnoustie to get to four under, where he was joined by Wallace who matched his score over the Old Course at St Andrews.
Irish pair Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley, South Korean Jinho Choi, Thai Phachara Khongwatmai and Austrian Matthias Schwab were then at three under, a shot clear of a group including two-time defending champion Tyrrell Hatton and double reigning Major champion Brooks Koepka.
Fraser has just two top 20s this season but is looking for a fourth victory in his 350th European Tour event and was delighted to rediscover his form at the perfect moment.
Fraser birdied the 12th, 14th and 16th to hit the front while Khongwatmai turned in 34 with birdies on the 10th and 18th. The 19-year-old then holed his second on the par-four 2nd at St Andrews and leapfrogged Fraser into the lead.
Players were jostling for the lead and Khongwatmai dropped a shot on the 5th as Wallace made an impressive move. The Englishman had bogeyed the 4th but made three birdies in a row and then holed a monster putt on the 9th to get to three under.
Khongwatmai soon burst out of that group, putting an approach to eight feet and making a birdie on the 7th.
Fraser had bogeyed the 4th but hit back on the 7th and when Khongwatmai made a bogey on the 8th there was a five-way tie before Fraser holed a 30-footer on the 9th for a four-under total and the clubhouse lead.
A four-footer from Wallace on the par-five 14th briefly put him in a share of top spot but he gave the shot back after a poor tee-shot on the next. He was not done, however, and a birdie on the last put him into a share of the lead.
Harrington – the champion at this event in 2002 and 2006 – turned in level par at Kingsbarns but birdied the 3rd and 6th, holed a long putt on the 7th and saved par on the next after playing a remarkable bunker-shot from a tough stance.
Choi was bogey-free at Kingsbarns, making birdies on the 3rd, 8th and 12th, while Schwab – playing Carnoustie – made birdies on the 3rd, 9th, 12th and 14th with a bogey on the 13th.
McGinley – the Ryder Cup Captain in 2014 – was in the top five after 18 holes for the first time since 2014 after making five birdies and two bogeys at Kingsbarns including a long putt on the 6th.
Dane Lucas Bjerregaard, Spaniard Gonzalo Fernandez-Castaño, Swedes Peter Hanson and Marcus Kinhult, and Australian Lucas Herbert were alongside Hatton and Koepka at two under, with 24 players under par.
Kinhult and Frank Quattrone held a one-shot lead in the team event at nine under.
Credit: European Tour