American Nick Watney set the pace during the opening stages of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions after establishing a two shot lead over compatriots Anthony Kim, Ryan Moore and Phil Mickelson on a sun drenched Thursday morning at Sheshan International Golf Club.
Watney, winner of February's Buick Invitational on the US PGA Tour, stormed out of the blocks with back to back birdies before leaping up the early leaderboard with an eagle at the par five 14th after starting on the back nine.
A further birdie a hole later pushed Watney to five under par through seven and doubled his lead over Volvo World Match Play Championship finalists Kim, World Number Two and 2007 champion Mickelson and Wyndham Championship winner Moore.
Kim opted out of playing in Wednesday's pro-am after arriving from Spain via Hong Kong following visa problems after losing his passport, but was also quickly out of the blocks with three gains over his opening seven holes to reach the turn in a bogey free three under par 33.
Fellow Ryder Cup winner Mickelson made a flying start with gains over his first two holes before also adding a birdie at the short par four 16th after also beginning his bid on the back nine.
Moore, the only member of the quartet to have started on the front nine, also reached the turn in a bogey free 33 to maintain his recent form after claiming top ten finishes in his last two events in America at the end of last month.
Singapore Open winner Ian Poulter, Dane Søren Kjeldsen and Paul Casey, who are all inside the top 15 in The Race to Dubai, were in a large contingent at two under.
The Race to Dubai leader Lee Westwood, a fit again Martin Kaymer - who currently sits second on the Order of Merit with just three events remaining - World Number One Tiger Woods and former champion and PGA Championship winner YE Yang made slow starts to progress to one under.