Sergio Garcia's hopes of a first win for almost three years were boosted by a four under par opening round of 67 at his home club in Spain which left him one behind early pace-setter Fabrizio Zanotti.
The 31 year old, looking much more like his old self this season after a difficult couple of seasons, was one behind Paraguay’s Zanotti in the Castelló Masters at the Club de Campo del Mediterráneo course.
Garcia was grouped with defending champion Matteo Manassero and England's Tom Lewis - only 18 and 20 respectively - and it was the Italian who made the fastest start with four successive birdies.
But Manassero had to settle for a two under 69 in the end while Lewis, who captured the Portugal Masters in only his third professional start on Sunday, had a level par 71.
Garcia was just one over at the turn, but then covered the front nine in a five under 31 with birdies at the second, fourth, fifth, seven and ninth.
That would have taken him into a share of the lead with South African George Coetzee but for the fact that Zanotti, chasing his first European Tour title, had five birdies in a row from the 11th in his 66.
Lewis, feeling under the weather with a virus, turned in three over, had four successive birdies from the fifth, but then went over his final green and bogeyed.
Garcia said: "It was a slow start, but the par putt on one (his tenth hole) was huge and then I got going."
England's Robert Coles and German Marcel Siem both reached five under, but Coles double-bogeyed the 14th and Siem did the same on the 15th.
Colin Montgomerie, José María Olazábal and John Daly were among the later starters.
Zanotti said: “I hit it really good and on the back nine I made some putts so I’m really happy.
“I kept patient and on the back nine I made the birdies.”
England's Ross McGowan took over at the top in mid-afternoon, reaching six under after 12 holes with four birdies and the real bonus of an eagle two on the 503 yard 17th.