Ferguson chipped in for eagle on the 10th and 18th holes and also recorded five birdies in a scintillating nine-under-par round at Galgorm Castle.
The 26-year-old, who also shot 61 in the second round of the Hero Open at Fairmont St Andrews, said: "I feel good. "Actually I was messaging Jamie (Gough, his coach) yesterday about a few things I wasn't doing too well yesterday in the pro-am. I played with Niall (Horan) and Robbie and I kept hitting a lot of bunkers. "Today was just nice to avoid them all, which was good and obviously a 61, a course record is pretty nice." England's Richard Bland, Sweden's Felix Palson and Spain's Borja Virto are the nearest challengers to Ferguson on five under par. Players will complete 18 holes at Galgorm Castle and 18 at Massereene Golf Club before a halfway cut - to the top 60 and ties - is made in each tournament, with a further cut after 54 holes to the top 35 players and ties.
The £2.5million purse will be split evenly in an event which was elevated to DP World Tour status following a successful inaugural edition on the Challenge Tour in 2019, when home favourite Stephanie Meadow won the women's tournament and Jack Senior claimed the men's title. In the women's event, American Amanda Doherty leads on six under par, a shot ahead of a four-strong group which includes Ireland's Leona Maguire and England's Georgia Hall. "It's never ideal when you hit your first tee shot out of bounds, but I held in well," Maguire said. "I didn't hit the ball particularly well today well off the tee. "Few dropped shots but putted really nice to keep myself in there. Always nice to finish with three birdies in the end. This course doesn't suit my eye very well, so it will be nice to have a change of scenery."
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