Luke Donald was left feeling "a little bit invincible" after he took a giant stride towards the World Number One spot with a seven under par 64 on the opening day of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth Club.
Four days after he just missed out on dethroning Lee Westwood, last year's runner-up threw down the gauntlet with a sparkling eight-birdie display in the wet and windy conditions.
Westwood could only respond with a one over 72 as his compatriot produced a masterclass to lead Italian teenager Matteo Manassero and Sweden’s Johan Edfors by two.
Donald's only mistake came when he pulled his approach to the 480 yard 12th into the trees and had to chip out sideways. But he was already five under when that bogey came and over the closing stretch he picked up further strokes on the 13th, 16th and 17th.
The round equalled his best on The European Tour, and afterwards he said: "That was probably one of the best rounds I've ever played to be honest.
"It was tough conditions out there - the wind was swirling, there was some rain showers, and this isn't an easy course in the best of conditions. So to pretty much have total control of the golf ball today doesn't happen very often in golf but that's how I felt today. I was just seeing the shots and I was able to hit them. So it was very, very satisfactory today - very, very pleasing.
"I guess you feel a little bit invincible. You're out there and just have a lot of good feelings, that there's not a lot of negativity that creeps in. Everything is positive around you - you're seeing the shots well and everything is working."
The Ryder Cup star had last year's Captain Colin Montgomerie alongside him for a while, but the 47 year old - without a top-ten finish for almost three years and 462nd in the Official World Golf Ranking - bogeyed the 15th and 16th.
That left 18 year old Manassero in second place along with Edfors – who claimed all three of his European Tour titles back in 2006.
Almost unbelievably Manassero could move into the world's top 15 if he captured his third European Tour title this weekend.
As for Westwood, he double-bogeyed the 418 yard sixth, but came back with birdies on the ninth and tenth, but then dropped another shot on the 15th.
Manassero dropped his first shot of the day at the 15th, but by birdieing two of the last three was able to sign for a five under par 66.
“It was really good, I played really solid,” he said. “I hit the ball well, didn't miss many shots, which I think conditions like this, on this course, it's key.
“It's tough conditions and the course is firm, but I managed to finally play a good, solid round, and that was the key of five under. It's playing really firm this week. Putting is not easy, but if you put the ball in play, you've done more than 50 per cent.”
Edfors produced a stunning back nine 32 that was one better than even Donald could manage.
After turning one under par, he produced a fantastic recovery shot from the trees on the 11th and holed from four feet for birdie, then almost sunk his four iron approach at the 480 yard 12th.
He picked up consecutive birdies again at the two closing par fives and said: “I holed a couple of key putts, but it was tough out there. The winds were really gusty, and so really happy with five under.”
Ian Poulter, who denied Donald the World Number One spot with his Volvo World Match Play Championship victory at Finca Cortesin last Sunday, was in a four-way tie for fifth with Wales’ Bradley Dredge, Spain’s José Manuel Lara and England’s Ross McGowan.
A 36-minute delay caused by a thunderstorm meant some of the late starters would not finish before dark – and in the last group Sweden’s Oscar Floren had moved into fourth place on four under after 11 holes.