GRAEME Storm produced his best play of 2012 to lead the KLM Open at the end of day one in the Netherlands.
Storm, desperate to retain his PGA European Tour card following a disappointing year, carded a superb seven-under-par 63 in Hilversum.
His flawless round put him into a two-shot lead and followed on from the promise at last weekend’s European Masters in the Swiss Alps where he was in contention throughout the tournament until a last round 75.
But there were no problems yesterday on the flatter landscape in North Holland, where Storm is hoping for a good result and big payday.
In golf, the league table, known as the Race to Dubai because of the prestigious end-of-season tournament in the UAE, is measured in winnings.
And so far the 34-year-old has not collected many euros and finds himself in 114th place and in danger of losing his card for 2013.
Storm said: “There is still a lot of play for this season – keeping my card is the goal.
“At the start of the season it was getting into the top 60 on The Race to Dubai.
“But I’m a long way from that so my goal now is to keep my card.”
But if he can keep this stunning form going over the next three days he should earn himself some vital points.
“You can get punished around here but I played the best I have probably played all year,” he explained.
“I’m just happy to get a round like that under my belt after recent months.
“I made the birdies when I gave myself the chances and got up and down when I missed the greens.
“The golf course here is fantastic – the best I have ever seen it – so you have to hit it straight and that is what I did.”
Teeing off at the 10th, Storm made a brilliant start at the 6,900-yard Hilversumsche Golf Club course.
He reeled off back-to-back birdie at the 11th and 12th before getting a three at the par-four 475-yard 16th.
Storm completed an excellent first half of his round with a birdie four at the 499-yard 18th.
He went through the next four holes in regulation before sinking his birdie putt at the tiny fifth hole measuring a mere 125 yards.
Storm was not finished and he ended his round in style with back-to-back birdie threes at the seventh and eighth.
That last scoring salvo helped put Storm ahead of the pack.
The tightly-packed leaderboard featured Ryder Cup team members Martin Kaymer and Peter Hanson among the leading challengers.
Kaymer shot a five-under-par 65, the highlight of which was an eagle at the 12th hole, to join Fabrizio Zanotti and Raphael Jacquelin in second place.
Hanson was a shot further back after a round containing five birdies and a solitary bogey at the sixth.
The third member of Jose Maria Olazabal’s team in action, Belgian wild-card pick Nicolas Colsaerts, was level par – while Olazabal’s eventful one-over-par 71 contained one of the highlights of the day when he chipped in from a bunker for one of his five birdies.
England’s Danny Willett was one of three British challengers alongside Hanson on four under while Paul Casey and Oliver Fisher feature in a large group at three under.