SANTO DA SERRA, Madeira Islands (AP) -Former Ryder Cup player Oliver Wilson has set his sights on the European Tour's upcoming flagship event at Wentworth after shooting a 6-under-par 66 to open the Madeira Islands Open on Thursday.
Wilson recorded six birdies to be among a group of six players sharing second place and two strokes behind Alvaro Velasco of Spain.
Velasco's second lowest career round of 64 included nine birdies, four in succession from the 9th, and just the one bogey.
He also produced the lowest number of putts - 25- on the mountainous Santo da Serra course.
It was Velasco's lowest round since a 64 on day two of the 2010 Castellon Masters.
"I played very consistent all day long and gave myself a lot of birdie chances," he said. "It's been a long time since I played this well and I didn't realize I had four birdies in a row as I was just so focused."
Victory this week will afford the winner a one-year tour exemption.
Velasco and Wilson forfeited full European Tour membership last year by finishing outside the top 118.
In Velasco's case, he missed out by nine places, and Wilson, who competed in the 2008 Ryder Cup, by a dozen spots.
While Velasco has tasted success in his pro career, Wilson has finished runner-up nine times on the tour, including at the 2008 BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. The 2012 event starts on May 24, and the Englishman would cherish teeing up again on the famed West Course.
"I lost in a playoff to Miguel Angel Jimenez and I would dearly love to be playing next fortnight," Wilson said. "My category means that I do not qualify so I have asked for an invitation, but then if I win this week I'm into the field and that would be great."
Wilson attributed his good score to changing the loft of his putter and working last week with putting coach Paul Harrion, who helped steer Padraig Harrington to three major victories.
"I just had too much loft on my Odyssey putter so we decreased the loft as I found I was leaning forward too much on it, so now it is much squarer," Wilson said. "So it was nice to see those birdie putts drop as I have been playing great the last five to six weeks.
"But the goal now after this great start is to build on today and it would be really nice to get into the BMW as it's like a home tournament to me."
Also on 6 under were fellow English players Tommy Fleetwood and Ben Parker, Denmark's Morten Orum Madsen, and the Swedish duo of Magnus Carlsson and Joakim Largergren.