Four birdies and an eagle in the last seven holes helped Scotland’s Raymond Russell climb into a share of the first round lead alongside Frenchman Marc Farry on six under par in the Qatar Masters at Doha Club.
After three consecutive birdies from the 12th Russell then chipped in for an eagle two on the 16th before finishing with another birdie on the last for a round of 66.
Russell, who was struck down with hepatitis at the start of last season, shares the lead with Farry, whose first sub-par round of the season included three birdies in the last four holes.
"I had a couple of stints in Australia which helped me prepare for the season," said Russell. "If I had stayed at home I don’t think I would be as sharp at this stage of the year. What happened last year is history - possibly the illness took more out of me than I thought but now I’m healthy."
A shot further back is Ryder Cup captain Mark James, who finished tied third last week in the Dubai Desert Classic, and American Bob May.
James tore a muscle in his shoulder in the last round of the Volvo Masters at the end of last season and didn’t hit a shot for 12 weeks, only starting practice again last month.
"I’m surprised to be playing this well so early in the season," he said. "I’ve not had much practice but the swing seems to have clicked into place."
The shot of the day came from Argentina’s Eduardo Romero. A perfectly hit eight iron straight into the hole at the par three 17th was his sixth hole-in-one, his second on the European Tour, and earned him a £35,000 BMW car.