Justin Walters enjoyed a brilliant round in a weather-affected first day at the UK Championship to finish three ahead of the chasing pack.
Walters carded a superb 64 to set the clubhouse target early in the day, though play was then suspended at The Belfry.
In the final event of the UK swing of the European Tour, Walters made the best of the good weather early on to hit a bogey free round.
The South African had missed the cut by a single shot in three of his last four events in the UK, but found his form with six birdies and eagle to lead at eight under.
However, play was halted due to flooding in the early afternoon, with the event resuming in the evening.
“In any conditions or any situation when you shoot 64, you smile,” Walters said. “I wasn’t smiling with a couple of holes to go as I started to get really wet.
“During the lockdown I was in North Carolina and didn’t have to face any golf courses being closed. I could practice as normal, played a few mini-tour events. I played a fair amount of golf and played some really good golf. I almost feel like I peaked in lockdown now.
“I came back out here, and I was confident. Felt like I was going to have a good run. Missed three cuts by one, made one cut and didn’t finish very high. It’s been really disappointing to say the least, but that’s golf.”
Benjamin Heber, Joel Sjoholm, Scott Vincent and Bernd Wiesberger – a debutant at The Belfry – finished on five under.
Brendan Lawlor, meanwhile, enjoyed an “amazing” European Tour debut.
The Irishman, who is currently ranked fourth in the World Rankings for Golfers with Disability (WR4GD), turned professional in September 2019.
“The nerves were fine, just the usual first tee nerves,” said the 22-year-old, who has Ellis-van Creveld syndrome.
“I hit a good one down the middle on the first and sort of relaxed then. I really enjoyed myself today. It felt amazing.”
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