Thomas Aiken played his first two nines at Oceanico Victoria Golf Course very differently, yet he managed his way round in 68 and finished three below the card for round one of the Portugal Masters.
The newly-wedÂs nines were completely different on Thursday. He headed out from the 10th, reached the turn with an eagle, three birdies and two bogeys on the card and then made nine consecutive pars coming home.
The day started quickly for Aiken after his eagle at the par-five 12th boosted him into contention. He followed the yellow number with two birdies, leaping into an early share of the lead.
Then came his slip, during which the 29-year-old bogeyed both the 15th and 16th, falling back on the leaderboard. A decent birdie at the par-five 17th pulled Aiken back into the game, and he pared 18 before turning at three-under.
After his breakthrough win at the Open de Espana last year, Aiken showed great promise. This season has been much quieter for the Fancourt professional. His only flashes of brilliance were a share of seventh at The Open Championship and sole ninth at the Volvo Golf Champions tournament.
This week may offer a mental boost for Aiken Â the kind of boost he needs to get out of a slump. His first round in Portugal showed many things Â he can play the back nine well, he has the ability to recover from a wobble at Oceanico, and he can keep it steady if he needs to.
While a couple of 65s had already been signed for by the time he reached score-recording, Aiken will take far more than three strokes away from his opening 68.