ESTORIL, Portugal – Damien McGrane of Ireland and Luke Goddard of England shot 8-under 64s to share the lead after the first round of the Estoril Open on Thursday.
The pair led by a stroke from Stuart Manley of Wales and Eirik Tage Johansen of Norway.
Welshman Philip Price shot a 64 at Penha Longa in 1994. However, par then was 71. In recent years the course has been lengthened to 6,903 yards and the par increased to 72.
What was clear, however, were the chances McGrane missed to put an end to the record debate.
While his bogey-free round contained eight birdies, he also missed close-range opportunities with his putter on the 10th, 17th and 18th greens. A 63 would have equaled his lowest score in 14 years on tour.
McGrane had a run of five birdies in six holes from the 11th.
“I played beautifully and created a lot of chances,” he said. “It was just a pity that I missed a couple of fairly easy ones.”
Goddard turned pro after last’s years Walker Cup and had previously failed to make the cut in any of the European Challenge Tour events this year. However, while he made six birdies, his card was enhanced when he sank his second shot from the 11th fairway to make an eagle two.
McGrane and Goddard were among the afternoon starters playing when the course was softened by two short but fierce rain showers at lunchtime.
And they were chasing an early 7-under 65 total set by American-born Norwegian Johansen.
Although he dropped a shot at the 17th when he drove into trees, he was happy to have struggled away from the fairway only once in his round.
“The wind was swirling around the course all morning,” he said. “And with so many trees it was difficult to hit some fairways.
“But I was confident in my game and on the second nine sank a string of long putts.”
Like Goddard, Manley arrived in Portugal with little or no form, having missed nine of his 11 cuts this year on both the main and Challenge Tours.
After taking the lead at 8-under in mid-afternoon, his play at the par-four 9th hole, his last of the day, undid much of the hard work he’d done to boost his confidence.
Manley drove into a bunker, failed to reach the green with his recovery, completely mishit his first attempt to chip onto the green, and the subsequent bogey dropped him into a share of third place.