London - England's Lee Slattery celebrated qualifying for the US Open by topping the leaderboard after the first round of the Wales Open at Celtic Manor on Thursday.
Slattery carded a 66 at Walton Heath three days ago to earn a US Open debut and the 33-year-old looked brim full of confidence as he scored four under par 67 to take a one-shot lead over Marcel Siem.
A stiff wind and fast-running conditions made life tough on the course where Europe beat America two years ago in the Ryder Cup.
Slattery has been regarded as a journeyman for much of his career, but he has been in fine form since last October when, on his 183rd start, he captured the Madrid Masters.
Now he looks a strong contender for Wales Open glory as he plans for a trip to San Francisco for his first US Open.
"I know Olympic Club is going to be difficult, but I'm really looking forward to it," he said.
"It's more the atmosphere. I remember The Open at Hoylake (his only previous major was there in 2006) and I thrived on it."
Slattery's round was not without its scary moments. He was an inch from going in the water on the short third and was relieved to find his ball in bounds at the 580-yard ninth.
The hole still cost him his only dropped shot, but he added: "It was very difficult. The wind was stronger than anticipated and if you get round without a bogey it's an amazing achievement."
Scotland's Paul Lawrie, second on the Ryder Cup points table, needed to birdie two of his last three holes for a 74, the same as Colin Montgomerie, while Jose Maria Olazabal took 76.
Reigning Wales Open champion Alex Noren hit an 81 before withdrawing with back trouble.
Leading first-round scores from the Wales Open at the par-71 Celtic Manor course in Newport on Thursday:
67 Lee Slattery (Britain) 67 68 Marcel Siem (Germany) 68
Tim Sluiter (Netherlands) 68 69 Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spain) 69
Joel Sjoholm (Sweden) 69
Pablo Larrazabal (Spain) 69
Simon Thornton (Ireland) 69 70 Fabrizio Zanotti (Paraguay) 70
Marcus Fraser (Australia) 70
Steven O'Hara (Britain) 70
Ross Fisher (Britain) 70 71 Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand) 71
Richard McEvoy (Britain) 71
Thomas Bjorn (Denmark) 71
George Coetzee (South Africa) 71
Fredrik Andersson Hed (Sweden) 71
David Horsey (Britain) 71
Richie Ramsay (Britain) 71
Damien McGrane (Ireland) 71
Jamie Elson (Britain) 71 72 Joakim Lagergren (Sweden) 72
David Drysdale (Britain) 72
Chris Wood (Britain) 72
Bradley Dredge (Britain) 72
Mark Foster (Britain) 72
Paul McGinley (Ireland) 72
Andrew Marshall (Britain) 72
Jaco Van Zyl (South Africa) 72
Peter Lawrie (Ireland) 72