Swedish duo Johan Edfors and Mikael Lundberg both completed opening rounds of 66 to set the clubhouse target at six under par at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Following the recent success of compatriots Robert Karlsson - winner of last year’s Order of Merit - and Henrik Stenson, who won the NedBank Challenge and teamed up with Karlsson for Omega Mission Hills World Cup glory at the back end of 2008 - Edfors and Lundberg continued the good form of Sweden’s golfers by claiming an early one shot lead.
Play was held up for more than two hours after a hailstorm flooded the course at 9am local time and although the storm was fairly brief, it was so fierce that the greenkeeping staff then had to clear flooded bunkers and fairways.
And the two hours lost meant that around half the field were still to complete their opening round when darkness brought the day’s play to a close.
Edfors had a golden opportunity to set an even stiffer target, but three putted the last for a par five and six under 66.
The former The Barclays Scottish Open champion had earlier recorded three successive birdies either side of the hold up and another hat-trick at the start of the back nine.
Compatriot Lundberg, twice a winner of the Inteco Russian Open Championship, was alongside him after a bogey free round.
Another Swede, Jarmo Sandelin, was a shot further back on five under, alongside England’s Oliver Fisher and Italy’s Francesco Molinari.
Molinari said: “It's good, probably better than what I expected. It's not easy to start over again after four weeks off, so I'm quite happy. I didn't expect to score this well, and looking forward to the rest of the week.”
And the Italian admitted he had not been prepared for the weather interference. “It was a bit of a surprise, because you don't expect that to come down in the desert,” he added. “It was a funny, new thing. Hopefully we won't get any of that in the next few days.”
Defending Champion Martin Kaymer is in the frame, having completed a first round 68.
“Not as good as last year but I'm very happy,” said the German. “I didn't hit the ball very well but my putting was awesome, so that gave me a lot of opportunities to make birdies. I'm happy.”
Alongside Kaymer are Rafael Cabrera Bello, Jean-Baptiste Gonnet, Richard Green and Joburg Open runner-up Andrew McLardy.
Three time major winner Padraig Harrington, playing his first event on The European Tour International Schedule 2009, recorded a respectable one under 71.
“I felt reasonably good, coming at the end,” he said afterwards.
“I was disappointed to make the bogey on eight, and had two reasonable chances certainly with shots into the last two greens. So maybe a shot or two better would have been certainly what it felt like.”
Another major winner last year, Trevor Immelman, posted a level par 72. “I actually felt like I hit some nice shots but couldn't get the putter cooperate, so I need to work on that this afternoon,” said the South African.
One Swede not going well was course record holder and World Number 12 Stenson, who struggled to a four over 76.
That included a triple bogey seven on the 16th when he played the wrong ball from the dense rough. It was of the same type and number, but he did not identify it closely enough and only after hitting the shot did he discover it did not have his personal mark on it.
On the course, Louis Oosthuizen is five under with two holes to play, while Spaniard Ignacio Garrido is also five under with three holes to go.
Race to Dubai leader and World Number Two Sergio Garcia made a fantastic start, moving to three under after just five holes after starting his round with consecutive birdies. The Spaniard was still three under when bad light brought his day to an end with four holes remaining in his first round.