Tartan trio in top five as European Tour restarts in Austria
As Dutchman Joost Luiten set the pace with a seven-under-par 65 at Diamond Country Club, near Vienna, Howie and Warren shot matching 66s to sit joint-second, one shot ahead of Syme.
Scott Henry also sits in the top 20 in the dual ranking event with the Challenge Tour after a 69, with Craig Ross adding to a good day's work from the Scottish contingent with a 70.
In the circuit's first event since the Qatar Masters in early March, Peebles man Howie set the clubhouse target with an impressive bogey-free morning effort.
"I'm absolutely delighted," said the 25-year-old, who rolled in a 15-footer at the last for his sixth birdie of the round.
"I wasn't really sure what to expect after four months off, so that was a surprise. It was good, though.
"It's the first time I've had a bogey-free round in a long, long time, so it is pretty satisfying, especially on a tough golf course."
While Howie is playing in just his second European Tour event, Warren is a three-time winner on the circuit and showed his class with a strong finish.
The 39-year-old hit a 3-wood from 270 yards to 12 feet to set up an eagle-3 at the 15th before rolling in a 20-footer to match Howie's closing birdie.
"I'm very pleased," he admitted afterwards. "You are never sure what it is going to be like once you are back out on the golf course.
"Strangely enough, with no crowds it was just like playing at home the last couple of weeks and I was just trying to keep my game free rather than trying to overthink it."
It was a caddie-free effort as he had to carry his own bag after his caddie didn't get his Covid-19 test back in time. "It's the first time I've done that competitively in 15 or 16 years," said Warren.
Syme, who finished second in the Shot Clock Masters on the same course two seasons ago, started his round with four birdies and had moved to six-under after 10 holes before dropping his only shot of the day at the par-4 11th.
"I got off to an amazing start," said the 25-year-old Fife. "If we’re being picky, is a bit disappointing. But I’d have taken minus five if somebody offered it. It was a nice, chilled round and nice to post a good number."
Luiten, a six-time European Tour winner, birdied three of the last four holes to grab the lead on a day when 56-year-old Spaniard Miguel Jimenez also started promisingly with a 68.
A message from the Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.
Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.
Joy YatesEditorial Director