Agadir, Morocco (SportsNetwork.com) - Adrien Saddier fired a 7-under 65 in Thursday's first round, which was good enough to give the Frenchman a 1-shot lead at the Trophee Hassan II.
Saddier, who is playing in just his second European Tour event of the season after finishing 127th in the Race to Dubai last year and missing out on full exemption, has never won on tour. Saddier missed the cut at his only other tournament in 2015, the Joburg Open.
"It's almost my best round. I shot 64 in Qatar last year, which was 8-under, so this is one of my best rounds," Saddier said. "If I could get a win it would change my schedule as at the moment I'm playing on the Challenge Tour. I just need to focus on each shot now and see what happens."
Englishman Daniel Gaunt sits alone in second place following a 6-under 66 at Golf du Palais Royal.
George Coetzee, winner of the Tshwane Open two weeks ago, can earn a trip to the Masters in two weeks with a victory. Coetzee continued his strong play with a 5-under 67 and he is tied for third with David Drysdale and Chris Wood.
Defending champion Alejandro Canizares, who won by five shots last year for his second career tour win, carded a 5-over 77 and he is tied for 116th.
Saddier got off to a roaring start on the par-5 first hole when he chipped in for eagle, quickly getting him into red numbers. Following four straight pars from two, Saddier poured in back-to-back birdies on six and seven, putting him at 4-under. His gain on six was due to another chip-in
After making the turn with a pair of pars, Saddier continued to play well as he made birdie on No. 10.
Another set of four straight pars from 11 preceded Saddier's fourth birdie on 15 and he later closed with a gain at the last to conclude his bogey-free round.
"I'm very happy. I was very grateful to get an invite to play here," said Saddier. "This place is just unbelievable. I played very solid today. I had a chip-in for eagle on the first then another chip-in on six, so it was a great start and I kept it going."
Gaunt, playing in the penultimate group on the day, began with a trio of pars from one before rolling in back-to-back birdies on four and five. He later made the turn with a flourish by making two more birdies on nine and 10.
After four pars from 11, Gaunt made a push toward the top of the leaderboard when he made three straight birdies from 15, tying him for the lead with Saddier. However, a bogey at the last dropped Gaunt one back at the end of round one.
Coetzee holed seven birdies to go along with a double-bogey on eight, while Drysdale had a wild day with an eagle, six birdies, a bogey and a double- bogey.
Like Saddier, Wood also went bogey-free with five gains to start out the week.
NOTES: Along with the Tshwane Open two weeks ago, Coetzee also won the 2014 Joburg Open ... Marcel Siem, who won here in 2013, is also looking to qualify for the Masters with a victory. He is tied for sixth at 4-under 68 ... Canizares set the 36-hole record at this event last year before going on to win by five shots.