Two-time Major winner John Daly was amongst the early leaders as the Commercialbank Qatar Masters presented by Dolphin Energy began in Doha.
The former US PGA Championship and Open Champion carded four birdies in his first 16 holes to be tied at the top with Sweden’s Peter Hanson, Korean K J Choi and England’s Richard Finch.
With the windy conditions forecast to worsen later in the day, the second leg of The European Tour's Middle East swing was a stern test for the star-studded field, but scoring was better than expected during the morning.
Ryder Cup Captain José María Olazábal, who two weeks ago in South Africa led the Volvo Golf Champions early on the final day, produced more of his old form to reach a superb five under par after 11 holes, but then bogeyed the next two.
Daly, also 45, has not had a victory for eight years - for Olazábal it is seven - but was four under with two holes to play.
That put Daly in a group one ahead of big hitting pair Alvaro Quiros and Nicolas Colsaerts, Scotland's Paul Lawrie and Ireland’s Peter Lawrie, while World Number Four Martin Kaymer was two under and Sergio Garcia one further back.
Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell were among those not teeing off until the afternoon and keeping a keen eye on the weather.
Lawrie had a chance to win in Abu Dhabi last weekend, but in the end had to settle for eighth place. Winner in Qatar in 1999 - the same season he captured The Open Championship at Carnoustie - he kicked off with a hat-trick of birdies and reached four under on the 433 yard second, his 11th.
Colsaerts was tied for the lead standing on the final tee of the Volvo Golf Champions, but ran up a bogey six to miss out on the play-off in which Branden Grace beat fellow South Africans Ernie Els and Retief Goosen.
After 14 holes he had yet to drop a stroke and had birdied three of the par fives as well as the 429 yard 12th.
World Number 13 Choi, winner of the prestigious Players Championship in Florida last May, was unable to make his presence felt in Abu Dhabi, but twos on the 13th and 17th helped him to grab a share of the lead.
Olazábal finished poorly, but Daly - who won at St Andrews in 1995 in windswept conditions - added a further birdie on the ninth to set the clubhouse target with a five under par 67.
He is currently 543rd in the Official World Golf Ranking and no longer has a full US PGA Tour card.
The controversial American led by one from Lawrie, Colsaerts, Choi, Finch and Hanson, who had a nightmare final round playing alongside Tiger Woods and Robert Rock in Abu Dhabi.