(CNN) -- England's Ross McGowan claimed a two-shot lead after an opening round of seven-under 64 at the Estoril Open in Portugal on Thursday.
McGowan tees off on the fourth during his round of 64 at Oitavos Dunes.
McGowan, chasing his first European Tour win, carded eight birdies against a single bogey on the Oitavos Dunes course, despite blustery conditions.
Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey is his nearest challenger on 66 with McGowan's compatriot Simon Dyson, Spain's Carlos Del Moral and Scot Alastair Forsyth a further shot behind.
McGowan, who won in Portugal on second-tier Challenge Tour in 2007, told the official Tour Web site www.europeantour.com that he enjoyed the testing conditions.
"I played steady and my control was good especially into the wind. On another day I might have been struggling but down wind I was knocking it on the green and taking my putts and moving on really," he said.
Hoey, who came through last year's qualifying school, tore through the back nine in a five-under 30, including five birdies and an eagle, looking to improve on his sixth place in Madeira after leading at halfway.
McGowan also came close to victory in this year's Johnnie Walker Championship in Perth as he led by two with five holes to play, but tailed off to finish second to brilliant 18-year-old New Zealand amateur Danny Lee.
"I felt a little hard done by. I didn't really make any mistakes, but sometimes you don't get the breaks," McGowan said.
Dyson managed his 67 despite battling a neck problem which caused him to block his drives out right.
Forsyth is also in the hunt having been beaten in a three-way play off last season with Ryder Cup star David Howell and eventual winner Gregory Bourdy of France.
Bourdy finished strongly with five birdies in his last seven holes for a 69 to begin his title defense, joining England's Oliver Fisher and Thomas Bjorn of Denmark in a large group at two-under.