Santos takes charge in Doha
Portugal's Ricardo Santos fired a brilliant seven-under par 65 to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the $2.5-million (approximately R22-million) Qatar Masters on Wednesday.
The 2012 Henry Cotton Rookie of the Year carried his fine form from the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships - where he had finished fourth - to the Doha Golf Club to set himself up nicely in calm conditions predicted for the tournament.
Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka, Anthony Wall of England and Scot Peter Whiteford were a shot behind after stroking a 66 each while six golfers including Englishman Simon Khan were on 67.
Major winners Michael Campbell of New Zealand and Martin Kaymer of Germany were in a group of 13 players a further shot down on 68.
Best of the 12 South Africans in the field were Garth Mulroy and George Coetzee, who shot rounds of 69 to lie four shots adrift of Santos.
Former winners of this event Ernie Els and Retief Goosen carded rounds of even par and two over respectively.
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Kaymer shot an eagle on the par-4 fourth hole but a bogey on the last saw him end the day three shots off leader Santos.
Santos, who last year created a sensation in Portugal by becoming the first player from his country to win the Madeira Islands Open began with a bang, shooting eight birdies, a bogey on the 11th hole somewhat blighting his round.
The 30-year-old was simply brilliant on the long holes, picking up birdies on the 591-yard first and the 639-yard ninth to put himself in contention for a decent finish if not the title on Saturday.
"I just played really well, especially my short game," said Santos. "I missed a few shots from the tee but then recovered very well and just kept it like that.
"When you start like that, get to the top of the leaderboard, it's really nice - especially when you play quite well.
"My short game today was really amazing, especially the putts. I'm really happy."
Santos added that his performance will encourage more Portuguese players to take up golf.
"It's really important for me and for Portugal as well. We need to welcome more players and I think it's really important when you play the first season on the main tour and win a tournament, especially in your home country, I think it's very important and means a lot for me.
"I just want to enjoy the season, and I want to go to The Race to Dubai, I think that's my target this season.
"Winning Rookie of the Year gave me a lot of confidence for this season. I practise a lot to have a more consistent game and that's my target for this season, that and just enjoy myself."
Former winners Paul Lawrie of Scotland and Dane Thomas Bjorn could just manage par in the opening round.