Rising young English star Aaron Rai finished with a sublime eagle on the opening day at Doha Golf Club to move into a share of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters lead alongside his more experienced counter-parts Grégory Havret and Eddie Pepperell.
The 22 year old from Wolverhampton posted a flawless seven under 65 in the Qatari capital after reaching the lengthy par five final hole in two before holing a 12-foot eagle putt to card the hole's only three all day.
Like Rai, Havret also posted a flawless opening round as the Frenchman, who is on course to reach 500 European Tour appearances this season, went on a hot streak with six birdies in eight holes from the sixth – including four in a row – en route to a 65. Pepperell’s 65, meanwhile is his lowest round since last October’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari, who chipped in for birdie at the last, and seven-time European Tour winner Alvaro Quiros were a shot back on six under par alongside Englishman Oliver Fisher and Germany’s Marcel Schneider.
“I drove it well and then gave myself a lot of opportunities with the approach play, didn't miss too many greens. It can get very tricky around the greens here with the Bermuda grass being very hard to predict.
“I think we were very fortunate this morning to have it so calm but the course itself is very good. There are some tricky holes but there are some opportunities if you drive it well and have some good approach play.
“It was all pretty steady, I didn't really make too many mistakes. Gameplan-wise, you have to be doing something right and playing some good golf to shoot a 65 so I'll just continue in the same vein and try not to change too much.”
“It's a pretty good start. We were lucky the wind didn't pick up today. It's really helpful because we know here regularly the wind is 30-40 kilometres an hour so it's a tough course. The greens are really firm and quick but in those conditions, it helps to make some good scores if you are feeling it.
“I played well. I've made some changes this week with personnel so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.
“It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I want to keep working on what I'm working on, go out there and try and do as best I can with it.
“This is definitely a great stepping stone moving forward and if conditions remain fairly benign in terms of the wind then there will be some low scoring out there which is good for me right now, going out and being aggressive.”
“It was a good day. I hit the ball really steady all day, I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie and it was a very good start.
“It's massive any time you can start with a 66. You're right there from the beginning, not feeling like you're chasing anything. The greens are as pure as I've seen them here and there are a lot of chances.”