A MONTH ago David Drysdale was on crutches and fearing he would miss the rest of the season. But with the help of renowned Anstruther-based sports physiotherapist Stuart Barton and hours spent wading in the cold waters of Pease Bay, the Scot was not only fit enough to compete at the Portugal Masters at Vilamoura, he was in a share of third place, a single shot off the pace after yesterday's opening round.

Drysdale carded six birdies, including three in succession from his fourth hole, in a six-under-par 65 in what were superb scoring conditions after the clearance of fog that caused an hour's delay to the start of play on the Oceanico Victoria course.

It was the 40-year-old’s lowest round in 18 months as he competes in a 375th Tour event while continuing to chase a first victory.

England’s Andy Sullivan, a two-time winner this season, ended his round right on sunset with a seven under par 64 to join Belgium’s big-hitting Nicolas Colsaerts at the top of the leaderboard. Poor light eventually left 14 players to complete their first rounds this morning.

Drysdale sustained a calf injury while climbing out of a bunker at last month's Italian Open. He boarded and disembarked from his flight back from Milan in a wheelchair.

Drysdale's right ankle remains heavily strapped and he is still taking prescription of anti-inflammatories but he feels strong enough both physically and mentally to now enjoy thoughts of qualifying for the Final Four Series in Turkey.

Ranked 116th on the money list when he hobbled off the course in Monza, he secured his 2016 Tour card with a remarkable 13th-place finish a fortnight later at the Dunhill Links Championship.

And at 98th on the Race to Dubai a top-five result in Portugal would see him packing his bags for Belek.

“I was delighted with my score and I will take a 65 any day in any tournament,” Drysdale said.

“My result in the Dunhill and now a good start here in Portugal could lead to getting myself to Turkey, so that’s the big goal. If I do that then maybe I could work my way into the two events in Shanghai.

“Stuart has done an amazing job and but for him – along with all the gym work and 30-minute stints in my shorts wading in Pease Bay – it would have been another two to three weeks before I got back to the Tour.

“I must have looked daft at the time but it was brilliant for my leg. The last time I would have been down at Pease Bay was probably as a youngster swimming in summer.”

Fellow Scot Stephen Gallacher also has his head well above water after birdies at the same three successive holes as Drysdale. He shot four-under-par 67, as did Glaswegian Scott Jamieson.

And after being forced out after one round of last week’s British Masters due to a virus, Gallacher is primed to not only improve his current world ranking of 97 but also to move from 61st into the top 60 of the Race to Dubai money list.

Gallacher said: “I have been working with a new coach and am starting to play well and becoming more confident every week.

“I also managed to rid myself of the bug I picked up and feel back to full fitness, I'm so really looking forward to the next three days and to getting myself inside the top-60 and qualifying for the season-ender in Dubai.”

Jamieson is ranked 105th on the money list and making the cut this week would secure his card for next season.

Stirling’s Craig Lee stormed home with birdies at three of his closing five holes to join Gallacher and Jamieson on four under par.