Nick Dougherty opened with a seven under par 66 at the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco to establish a one shot lead.
Home in 30 with an eagle and five birdies, the 27 year old from Liverpool leads Ireland's Peter Lawrie, Scot Stephen Gallacher, Italian Francesco Molinari, India's S S P Chowrasia, Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez and Paraguay’s Fabrizio Zanotti.
What Dougherty took most satisfaction from was the fact that his round came on the tougher Red course at Royal Golf Dar Es Salam. Of the six players just behind him all but Chowrasia were on the much shorter Blue.
From a high of 46th in the world just over two years ago, the three-time European Tour winner has dropped to 120th on the Official World Golf Ranking.
"I've been struggling so much I'm just trying to build some confidence and hit as many good shots as I can," he said.
"Thomas Björn gave me quite a bit of help yesterday on the range, which meant the world to me obviously, but it's a work in progress.
"Anything under par I would have been happy with, so I was delighted with that. I think seven under is a really, really good score round there.
"I putted fabulously and I'm delighted with my short game in general, but it's the long game that's concerning me. I've been battling with that for a long time now."
Molinari is the highest-ranked player in the field but the Italian Omega Mission Hills World up winner admits he is somewhat jaded after a busy schedule.
“I flew straight here from Miami and only arrived on Tuesday night so I’m still feeling a little tired,” he said.
“I’m still struggling to get some sleep at night but it’s getting better every day and should be fine at the weekend.”
Gonzalez captured last year’s SAS Masters in Sweden and insists he is almost back to his big-hitting best.
“My game is getting better. I did well in Qatar (at the Commecialbank Qatar Masters) and was hitting some good tee shots, some good putts,” said the 40 year old.
Breaking his driver on the eve of the event did not hold Lawrie back.
"The head of the driver came loose during practice. I have a spare, but I'm just not not 100 per cent confident with it," said the former Rookie of the Year, whose only European Tour win came in the 2008 Open de España.
"The three-wood's going well, but the Red is long and the driver will have to come out somewhere."
The 104-strong field switch courses for the second round as the pro-am format continues before the top 65 professionals go through to the closing 36 holes on the Red.
Lawrie is partnering his father-in-law and added: "That's the most nervous I've been. I had to up my game to make sure I did okay and we did okay."
The 35 year old was only two under with eight to play, but eagled the long second and birdied three of his last four holes.
Fellow Dubliner Paul McGinley, playing his first tournament since a sixth knee operation in November, managed only a three over 76 on the Red.
“I’m lacking that competitive edge,” said the man who holed Europe’s winning put at The Ryder Cup in 2002.
“The knee is absolutely fine. I didn’t feel it at all, and although it’s a bit swollen now, it’s not giving me any pain. My round got away from me at the eighth and ninth when I missed a two foot putt and then hit one in the water. I played much better than my score suggests but my putting was terrible.”