SCOTLAND'S Richie Ramsay is just one shot off the lead after shooting a 68 during a windswept opening day of the Qatar Masters.

Ramsay started his round with an eagle on the 10th - his opening hole of the day - and reached five under par after 10 holes, only to drop shots on the seventh and eighth before a closing birdie on the ninth left him tied in a seven-strong group - which includes South Africans Justin Harding and George Coetzee and Welshman Bradley Dredge - just behind the leaders, South Africa's Justin Walters and Spain's Adri Arnaus.

Walters said he was ecstatic after defying the testing conditions to fire five birdies and no bogeys in a flawless round at Doha Golf Club.

"Warming up today in the wind I thought any score under par would be great, so to shoot five under I'm ecstatic," he said. "I putted really well and my short game was really good today. I haven't played that well, even in calmer conditions, in a while so it's surprising and very welcome.

"I wouldn't want to play another three days with a wind like this, especially after a relentless spell of wind in Oman last week. Hopefully, as the conditions improve over the next few days I can continue to play the way I've played today."

Arnaus, who finished second on the Challenge Tour last year to graduate to the European Tour, said after a round containing an eagle, four birdies and a solitary bogey: "It was a lot of fun. The wind picked up early but I kept the ball in play most of the time. I gave myself good birdie chances and I was able to take advantage of some of them, so I'm pleased.

"It was good getting into contention last year and then at the end being able to close it out at the Challenge Tour Grand Final gave me the belief that I could go on and do it on a bigger stage. Tomorrow is a new day so I'll just need to continue doing the same things."

Oman Open winner Kurt Kitayama, who is seeking a third European Tour victory in his last 10 starts, is part of a 19-strong group on three under par after a 69. Pre-tournament favourite Thomas Pieters is a shot further back alongside his World Cup-winning partner Thomas Detry.

In Australia, Scotland's Michele Thomson heads the British challenge after day one of the Women's New South Wales Open. Thomson carded an opening 68 at Queanbeyan Golf Club to share fifth place on three under par, five shots behind Iceland's Valdis Thora Jonsdottir, who fired a career-best 63 for a three-stroke lead over France's Astrid Vayson de Pradenne.

Scotland's Carly Booth is part of a five-way tie for seventh place on two under.