Swede Johan Edfors has a two shot advantage after the first round of the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions in Bahrain with an eight under par 64, which make that score the course record as well.
The 35 year old leads by two from compatriot Peter Hanson, his Ryder Cup team-mate Francesco Molinari, England's Graeme Storm and Spaniard Pablo Larrazabal.
Sergio Garcia is just one further back after a bogey-free start to his season and Paul Casey – the highest-ranked player in the field at ninth in the world – also shot 67.
Edfors, married last month, won three times in 2006, but has failed to add any more wins to his tally in more than 100 European Tour events since then.
He had the advantage of starting early, when the conditions were calm and more favourable to low scoring.
"My iron play was really superb and I had a bunch of chances from around 15 feet.
"I think I am a lot better player than five years ago, but the results have not really shown that.”
For Garcia, now down at 80th in the Official World Golf Ranking, it was his best score on The European Tour for just over 12 months.
Colin Montgomerie became a victim of his own course design at the 408 yard fifth, going from the desert into a hazard and running up a triple bogey seven in his 72.
European Tour: Volvo Golf Championships Round 1 Leaderboard