Chasing the last of the 10 automatic places, Nicolas Colsaerts of Belgium shot an early 69 - he must finish first or second on Sunday to guarantee his debut against the United States at Medinah next month.
Scotland's Paul Lawrie and Francesco Molinari of Italy, who have already qualified for the team, shot impressive 68s later on a day when Gleneagles was swept by a gusting wind.
But by the close of the first day they were chasing Australian Brett Rumford and Norway's Knut Borsheim who shared the lead after shooting five-under-par 67s.
Borsheim is 215th in this year's race to Dubai with a best finish of tied 16th at the Madeira Islands Open and Rumford's form has been little better for the past two years.
In 2010 the 35-year-old, a three-times Tour winner from Perth, had six top-10 finishes. But since his wife gave birth to twins he has found himself distracted.
"I have been trying to fit in seven-hour practice sessions," he said. "But I have been trying to be there for my girls as well and be as good a father as I can be, trying to juggle many things at once."
But after taking advice from a sports psychologist, Rumford believes his game could be getting back on track.
Lawrie admitted after his seven-birdie round that being in contention for a Ryder Cup recall after a 13-year absence, since he won the Qatar Masters in February, had affected his game.
"You can never know how much the Ryder Cup plays on your mind - you're looking at the list and wondering whether someone is going to pass you," he said.
"I have been struggling a bit with my ball striking, grinding it out a bit and it's got me down. I have been a bit grumpy over the last couple of months.
"But I have been grinning like a Cheshire cat since it was confirmed that I have made the team because I wanted to get in so badly. And now I am in the team the good ball-striking has come back."
Colsaerts will have been the focus of attention for European captain Jose Maria Olazabal. If the Belgian does not finish in the top two he will have to rely on a wild-card pick.
"Obviously the big goal is playing," said the 29-year-old after a round which started on the 11th tee and included a run of four birdies in five holes from the 14th.
"But if I can get myself into the team automatically it would be a big boost. After the way I have been playing for the past year I feel okay playing in this company.
"And I know that on any given day I can take on anybody, which is why I have done so well in matchplay events."
- Nicolas Colsaerts
- Paul Lawrie