Home favourite Pablo Larrazabal fired a sparkling round of 66 to claim a two-shot lead on day one of the Andalucia Valderrama Masters.
On a day where low scoring proved difficult for many in Sotogrande, the 27 year old Spaniard - whose only European Tour win to date came at the Open de France ALSTOM in 2008 - recorded birdies at the second, eighth, tenth, 16th and 17th holes to move clear of Graeme McDowell and Damien McGrane at the top of the leaderboard.
A delighted Larrazabal said: “For me, it is almost a record to shoot a bogey-free round at Valderrama and five under is just great, I played really well.
“I learned a lot three years ago when I played here for the first time. You need lots of patience, par is a good score. I tried to minimise the mistakes and luckily a few birdies showed up.
“It is important to be there and try to get into the (final event of the) Race to Dubai, but there are still three rounds to play.
“Being leader after the first round does not mean that much, but what is important is to lead on Saturday and Sunday, when I will try to put the ball on fairway and hole the putts.”
US Open champion McDowell - who occupies second place in the Race to Dubai standings behind runaway leader Martin Kaymer - and Irishman McGrane also managed to avoid any dropped shots in their rounds of 68.
McDowell said: "I am very pleased. Valderrama is a tough golf course, even if you play your best golf.
"I positioned well the ball off the tee, and scrambled when I had to. The key is patience - this course can eat you up."
Shiv Kapur and Gareth Maybin were a further shot back on two under, the latter recording two birdies and 16 pars to boost his hopes of securing a place in the Dubai World Championship presented by DP World.
Maybin is currently 58th in the Race to Dubai, with the top 60 gaining entry into the season-ending tournament.
A further nine players went round in 70, including Italy’s Francesco Molinari, England’s John Parry - who double bogeyed the last - and Spaniards Sergio Garcia and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Raphael Jacquelin had appeared likely to be among the front-runners as he moved to four under through 13 holes, but the Frenchman was to finish on level par after running up a triple bogey seven at the 16th and dropping a further shot at the last.
Jacquelin was one of several players to find life difficult over the closing holes, with Swede Oskar Henningsson also slipping from four under to level par and England’s Ross Fisher double bogeying the last to sit on the same score.
Argentinian Rafa Echenique was another player to shoot 71, despite being three under with six to play, while Peter Lawrie double bogeyed the 14th and 17th to finish with a 72.
Kaymer - a winner in his last three European Tour outings - ended the day on one over as well, with three consecutive bogeys from the 11th proving a significant setback.
The German can move to the top of the world rankings with a top-two finish this week, with fellow European Ryder Cup Team member Lee Westwood set to take over from Tiger Woods should Kaymer fail to achieve his goal.
Elsewhere, Thomas Levet carded a 73 after an extraordinary start which saw him double bogey the first before claiming an eagle two at the second.