Defending champion Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia opened with 5-under 66s, putting them one stroke off the lead in the first round of the European Masters.
Peter Hedblom of Sweden also had a 66.
Garry Houston of Wales and former Ryder Cup players Jarmo Sandelin of Sweden and David Carter of England opened with 65s to lead the tournament.
Nineteen other players were within four shot of the lead.
Donald and Garcia are two of the four 2004 European Ryder Cup players in the field. The others are Paul Casey, who shot 67, and Miguel Angel Jimenez who carded a 71.
The event is the first that counts toward making next year's Ryder Cup team at the K Club in Ireland.
"I feel I haven't played a bad round here yet," said the 27-year-old Englishman, who is based in Chicago and plays mostly in the US. Last year he shot 67-67-65-66 and won by five strokes. Garcia tied for third a year ago.
"The course seems to suit my game," Donald said. "I think the greens are starting to get firmer. They have a lot of little shelves, slopes, hollows and bumps on them so it's important to control the distance of your shots into the greens."
The sunny weather is expected to last, which Donald said would make low scoring difficult.
Garcia started quickly and was 5-under after eight holes, helped by a difficult 20-foot chip-in at the third. But he failed to birdie No. 9 and was slowed with a bogey at 10.
"I was a bit disappointed not to birdie nine after a really good drive," Garcia said. "And the three-putt on 10 really stopped my round."
Casey has endured a tough summer, missing seven cuts since he won in China in March.
"This was a solid round, nothing special. I plodded along nicely and picked up birdies where I could," he said.
Heather Bowie chipped in for an eagle and had a bogey-free 7-under 65 to take a one-shot lead after the opening round.
Bowie, who missed the US Solheim Cup team after finishing 12th in the standings, was at even-par when she holed a 14-foot wedge shot on the fourth hole at the Rail Golf Club. She followed with five birdies in her bid for her second career title after winning the Owens Corning Classic in July.
Sherri Turner, who missed most of last year with a shoulder injury, birdied five of her first six holes and was tied for the lead before hitting a 7-iron into the water and making a bogey at the par-3 16th. The 48-year-old Turner finished a stroke back at 6 under along with Natalie Gulbis and Tina Barrett.
Dina Ammaccapane, Jenna Daniels, Rachel Hetherington, Pat Hurst, Vikki Laing and Karrie Webb were tied at 5 under.
Defending champion Cristie Kerr, who won with a tournament-record 24 under last year, opened with a 4-under 68 and was in a group of five players three strokes back. Kerr won her sixth career title last week at the Wendy's Championship for Children, locking up the top spot on the US Solheim Cup team that will face the Europeans next week in Carmel, Indiana.
Bowie, who turned 30 this year, hit every green in regulation, the key to mastering the low-scoring layout.
"When you come here, you know you know you'd better make a lot of birdies and not very many bogeys," said Bowie, a six-year veteran.
Gulbis, who has eight top-10 finishes this year but is still looking for her first win, said the fast fairways give players a chance to shoot at pins with short irons and the par-5s are reachable.
"It's probably going to be a birdie-fest and you're going to have to shoot in the 60s every round," said the 22-year-old Gulbis, also a member of the US Solheim Team.
Barrett, looking for her fourth career title, said fairways hardened by a lingering drought coupled with soft greens left her with short birdie putts in her quest for another win.
"That's really why I'm still out here, trying to get one more before I retire and call it a career ... It's what kind of drives us all," said the 39-year-old Barrett, who has four top-10 finishes this year.
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