America’s Sean Crocker has carded a course-record 63 to top the leaderboard after a day of remarkably low scoring in the Hero Open.
Crocker recorded an eagle and eight birdies at Fairmont St Andrews on Thursday to finish nine under par, a shot ahead of a five-strong group which included England’s Ben Stow, the world No. 1,719.
Australia’s Dimitrios Papadatos was among those on six under as 119 of the 156-man field took advantage of calm conditions at the Scottish venue to break par.
Zimbabwean-born Crocker, 25, is seeking a first title on the European Tour and admitted a string of nine missed cuts in succession earlier this season had forced him to “grow up”.
“Mentally that was probably the toughest thing I’ve gone through so far,” the 25-year-old said.
“I know a lot of people have spoken about the whole mental side of sport but that was probably the darkest I’ve been in my whole life on a golf course.
“It was the first time I’ve experienced bad things happening on a golf course and I pretty much just had to grow up.
“I had to look at it and go well ‘Okay, you’ve been lucky enough to play good golf pretty much your whole life so far and now you’re going to get a little taste of what this game is all about’.
“It made me aware of just how hard this game is and also realise I can do all the work and still hit bad shots – there’s no point in getting upset.”
Scottish defending champion Grant Forrest is five shots off the lead after a round of 68, as is Australian Zach Murray.