Callum Shinkwin showed no signs of rust after his five-week break as he fired a six under par 66 to hold the first-round lead at the D+D REAL Czech Masters.
The Englishman had not played since missing the cut at The Open Championship but arrived at Albatross Golf Resort full of confidence having finished second at the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open the week before.
He recorded eight birdies in morning session and with rain arriving for the second wave, nobody could catch him at the top of the leaderboard.
South African Dylan Frittelli, Swede Pontus Widegren and Englishman James Heath sit at five under, a shot clear of Felipe Aguilar, Jaco Ahlers, Chris Hanson, Peter Karmis, Craig Lee, Oscar Lengden, James Morrison and last week’s Made in Denmark winner Julian Suri.
Shinkwin birdied the first but gave the shot straight back on the third before making further gains on the fourth, fifth, ninth and tenth. Another birdie on the 13th saw him lead on his own but he dropped a shot on the next after finding trouble off the tee before putting his tee-shot to five feet on the 16th to share the lead again. A closing left-to-righter from 20 feet then gave him a round of 66 and the lead on his own.
Defending champion Paul Peterson was then alongside 2014 winner Jamie Donaldson in a group of 14 players at three under.
“I played pretty well, it was a solid start. I played the par fives well, I kept the ball in play and holed my fair share of putts. I’ve had five weeks off but the confidence has still been there even when I’m playing at home.
“On the first hole the rain drops came in early out of nowhere but apart from that it’s been a scorcher, it’s been really nice so far, and hopefully for the afternoon players the weather does hold up but if it doesn’t that’s just part of the draw.
“My iron play to be fair was probably my strongest part but everything was good, and if everything is good you can’t really score bad.”
“I’ll just keep trying to do what I have been doing. I’ll warm up the same, I’ll try and sleep the same as well and hopefully the weather holds up.”
“I am very happy. I played really well today and I am happy to get the putter going, that’s always really important so I’m looking forward to the rest.
“It’s a pretty tough golf course. You have to be in the right place just to score and that goes for off the tee especially, if you are in the rough it’s really tricky. I did play well off the tee – I had a couple of loose ones – but I got it together every time I had a little mistake and got it back going.
“I just try to take care of the calm conditions, we can’t really do too much about what is going to happen going forward. Conditions were very nice for us early on and it’s just trying to get yourself birdie chances really.”
“I hit a bunch of greens and was really rolling the putter pretty well. I worked with my coach last week in Austin, Texas, on my putting and it seems to have paid off.
“It’s a ball-strikers course. You can see the guys that have struck it well around here have won in the past so if you see it well off the tee and hit a bunch of greens you’re going to make a few birdies because the greens are rolling really well.
“I played great today barring the double on 16. I had a really good round going, made a lot of putts and hit a lot of greens, so a pretty stress-free round.
“I played with Jordan Smith and Renato Paratore today, they both played really well and are renown ball-strikers so we had a good time out there, and hopefully I can keep hitting it well off the tee and finding a lot of greens.”
“We were all running from about the 17th second shot, no one want’s a restart at seven o’clock so we were all pushing each other, it’s amazing how quickly people can play when they want to get in and not have to wake up early.
“Good rounds are very non-descript, played the par fives well, four under through those and stiffed a couple of iron shots, chuck in a couple of three putts just for good measure, it really was just good solid golf.
“I feel like length is an advantage and I would say I am slightly above average, so it’s just one that fits my eye, a few fades and draws I can shape off the tee, I like the greens. I played it three years ago and it is one of those courses you kind of fancy yourself round.”