Victor Dubuisson of France defied tough scoring conditions on Thursday to shoot a 4-under 68 and take the first-round lead at the Ballantine's Championship.
Cold weather and a fierce wind at the hillside Blackstone Golf Club meant only 17 players among the 156-strong field went under par.
Dubuisson did not escape the thick undergrowth lining on many of the holes, running up a double bogey at the fourth hole and starting his round from the 10th tee with a bogey.
But he also had eight birdies as he took a two-shot lead from a group of five players on 2 under, including Paul Casey of England.
British Open champion Darren Clarke could only manage a 5-over 77, and looks set to continue his run of failing to finish higher than 20th in any tournament since his victory at Royal St George's last July.
Dubuisson has yet to win in two seasons on the European Tour but finished fourth in the China Open last weekend to pick up some momentum.
"I made a five-meter putt to save bogey at the 10th, my first hole, and a five-meter putt to save par at my second hole," he said. "That made all the difference because under the conditions if I had missed the putts twice I could have gone into a negative cycle.
"I always drive the ball well but when my short game is good it can make the difference of four or five strokes to the score."
Joining Casey on 2 under were Jung Ji-ho of South Korea, Richie Ramsay of Scotland, Jamie Donaldson of Wales and Mark Foster of England.
Australia's Adam Scott was one of a large group of players on 1 under, three shots adrift of Dubuisson.
"It was always going to be challenging," Scott said. "With the wind when you play on the side of the mountain it's going to be a tough week because of the changes of elevation."