Top home hope Victor Dubuisson, Austria`s Bernd Wiesberger and Jaco Van Zyl of South Africa shared the first round clubhouse lead in the 99th French Open at le Golf National on Thursday on a day bookended by thunderstorms.
The enigmatic Frenchman, the emerging Austrian talent and the latest South African prospect posted their three-under scores of 68 early in the day after two and a half hours had been lost as players took cover from the stormy weather spawned by the heatwave stifling western Europe.
The afternoon starters set off later than scheduled, but play was called off late in the evening with fears growing of further storms on the way.
At that stage, the leader out on the course was unheralded German Max Kieffer who got to four under through 14 holes thanks to three birdies in four holes from the ninth.
Others were poised to join the leading trio in the lead at three under.
Spain`s Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Andrew Dodt of Australia were both on that mark with one hole to play.
Former world number one Martin Kaymer, the 2009 French Open champion, was among those done and dusted with their first rounds on two under 69.
But there was a battle ahead for Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, aiming to record a rare hat-trick of title wins in a European Tour event.
The winner in 2013 and last year, who has struggled for form all year, was one over with a hole to play, two late birdies giving him fresh hope.
Crowd favourite Dubuisson said that he was aware of the pressure building on him to produce a home win.
The 25-year-old shotmaker from the Mediterranean glamour resort of Cannes said that his pace-setting 68 could have been even better had the rub of the green gone his way.
As it was, a superb approach to two feet produced a fine birdie at the 18th, his ninth, that helped put him level with Wiesberger from among the morning starters.
The last French winner of continental Europe`s oldest national championship was Thomas Levet in 2011 and Dubuisson is the star name among a raft of young French players starting to make their marks on the European Tour.
That is a role that Dubuisson says he is happy to accept although he understands it can crank up the pressure on him.
"I feel more the expectation and a little bit pressure from the crowd, because I especially want to do well for them, more than in other tournament. That`s how I feel," he said
Dubuisson was one of 29 Frenchmen in the field and he has company high up on the leaderboard with Gregory Bourdy in with a two-under 69.
Wiesberger, who has moved into the world top 50 this year on the back of some solid performances, said that he thrived on the tough challenge posed by Le Golf National, host venue for the 2018 Ryder Cup.
"I like the courses where you get challenged a bit more and you`re not shooting about 15?, 16?, 17?under par to win," he said.
When play was suspended until Friday morning, 42 players had yet to complete their rounds.