Ireland's Damien McGrane braved the morning cold by posting a six-under-par 66 to take the opening round lead at the €2.2 million (approximately US$3.2 million) Ballantine's Championship on Thursday.
Korea's Park Sang-hyun overshadowed many of the more illustrious names at the Blackstone Golf Club by taking a share of second place alongside England's Richard Finch and Chile's Felipe Aguilar on matching 67s while Scotland's Richie Ramsay is one back on 68 in fifth place with Thailand's Chinnarat Phadungsil.
McGrane, who opened his campaign at the par-four 10th, got his first birdie on the 12th hole. He then recorded a bogey-four on the 17th against three more birdies on holes 14th, 16th and 18th to turn in 33.
The Irishman continued to battle against the chill but put up another inspired performance in his front-nine when coming home by mixing another four birdies against a bogey on the par-five fifth.
"It was chilly and breezy today. We were walking fast and trying to keep up with the pace of play so, we were actually pretty warm out there. But needless to say it was very cold when we had to stand around," said McGrane.
"I hit a few good iron shots there at the end and I made a few good putts, and obviously I like to finish strong, which I did today," added the Irishman.
Meanwhile Park became the centre of attraction when he took the limelight away from the marquee names such as world number one Lee Westwood who struggled in his opening round.
The Korean had his confidence soaring when he birdied his opening par-five first before following that up with two successive birdies on the fourth and fifth holes.
He continued to birdie the 14th hole before marking his card with a lone bogey-sixth on the 15th hole. However two more birdies on the 16th and 18th ensured that he would head into the second round in a commanding position.
"I think instead of focusing on these star players, I just have to play my own game. It'll be an honour if I can upstage these players with big star qualities but ultimately I just want to focus on my game and do well," said Park.
Westwood who regained his position as the world's best player this week, returned with a 72 but remains confident of fulfilling his title ambitions at the Ballantine's Championship.
"The leader is at six‑under but I'm still in contention with a 72. You can't really do too much damage with being that far down at the end of the first day," said Westwood.
The world number one conceded that the greens had affected his play and will have to work on his putting if he wants to seek a quick return to the top of the leaderboard.
"I played very nicely and gave myself a lot of chances without really making any putts. I hit a lot of good putts, but the greens are firm and very different to what we putt on week in and week out. They are quite slow. You end up bashing them so it's hard to get the ball rolling in the hole," said Westwood.
American Dustin Johnson who is making his Asian debut at the Ballantine's Championship, attracted the strong crowd when he teed off in the afternoon and showed why he is regarded as one of the leading contenders this week when he signed for a 70 to stay four shots behind McGrane.
"I got off to a pretty good start. I missed two short birdie putts but other than that, I played pretty solid. The wind picked up on the back-nine and made it really tough to get it close to the hole," said Johnson who has four wins on the PGA Tour.
"I'll come back out in the morning with an early tee time. Hopefully there'll be no wind blowing and I'll make a run," added the American.
The 2011 Ballantine's Championship is sanctioned once again by the Asian Tour, European Tour and Korea PGA.
For enquiries, please contact Asian Tour's Calvin Koh at the Ballantine's Championship media centre on +82 31 641 0433. Also visit www.asiantour.com for live scoring.