“Nobody knows this course better than me,” Larrazabal said after carding a flawless 67. “I know exactly where to hit the greens. You can be in big trouble if you hit them in the wrong spot.”
Larrazabal was watched for a few holes by his brother Alex, the 2002 British Amateur champion, before Alex took up his duties as Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal’s caddie.
It has been a barren time for Larrazabal since he burst on to the European Tour scene with a dramatic victory in the 2008 French Open as a qualifier.
“For the last five or six months, I’ve been playing very solidly without finishing off in tournaments,” he said. “It would be nice to do so here.”
One of the tournament favourites, 18-year-old Matteo Manassero, marked his first event back after winning the Malaysian Open with a frustrating 73.
“The greens were very tricky and difficult to read, so I missed quite a few birdie chances,” the Italian teenager told reporters. “Tomorrow I’m going to have better knowledge of the course, so I should do better.”
Britain’s Elliot Saltman, back after serving a three-month ban for rules breaches, returned a 72, opening with a double-bogey, but turning his day around by coming home in three-under 33.