Sam Walker remains confident that he can keep his European Tour card for 2008 if he can keep hitting the ball for the rest of this week like he has started round the Brabazon Course.

The Birmingham golfer, 128th on the Order of Merit, needs to improve his ranking by at least 10 places over his closing five events of the year to retain his status as a Tour player - and a top-10 finish here would probably do it.

Walker sees this week's four rounds in the Quinn British Masters on the Brabazon Course, a track he knows so well, as his best chance of upping that ranking.

He insists that he could go "really close" this week. And he certainly walked as good as he talked yesterday morning, responding to a crisis situation when he slumped to three over after eight to birdie four of his last 10 holes for a one-under 71.

It is still eight shots off the pace set by Swedish journeyman Martin Erlandsson, who emerged from the shadows late yesterday evening to fire a record nine-under 63 around the altered Brabazon course.

Erlandsson's effort, playing in the same group as an admiring Peter Baker in the third from last group of the day, matched the best-ever round in almost 30 years of tournament play at this now famous track since Eamonn Darcy's 63 in this same event 24 years ago.

And it was also the lowest opening round score ever shot in a European Tour event staged at The Belfry.

It will take some chasing today for a pack led by South African Richard Sterne and former Ryder Cup player Jarmo Sandelin, who both enjoyed a bogey-free seven-under 65.

But, of all the five Midlanders playing here this week, the least well-known, Walker is the only one who seems to be playing with enough confidence to challenge.

And, after putting an ill-starred front nine 38 behind him to come home in 33 for a one-under 71, Walker knows he has given himself a good base.

Despite an early birdie when he put his wedge to four feet at the second, Walker had looked like falling away when he twice suffered from soft lies at the fourth and eighth, on the second occasion ending up in the drink, and each time it cost him double bogey.

But he got one back with a five iron to three feet at the ninth. And, despite missing a great birdie chance at the 10th, he then bagged three more at the 13th, from 25 feet, the 15th (a wedge to two feet) and the 17th, where he almost canned an 80-foot eagle putt.

"I wasn't too worried when I dropped those shots on the front nine as I've just been hitting it so well lately.

"I've been working so hard the last few weeks. I'm swinging well and, on the back nine, I was making putts, as you always will round here if you're a good putter, as the greens are so good.

"Kenny Mackay has got them in great shape. I really think that if I can keep putting like that then I've got a chance.

"I know the course like the back of my hands, I felt really comfortable out there. If I can make a score tomorrow, then I could still go really close on Sunday."