The two-time DP World Tour winner endured a disappointing 2021, registering 12 missed cuts and a withdrawal from his first 13 events, making just two weekends all season as he finished 208th on the Rankings in Partnership with Rolex.
A second-placed finish on home soil at the Volvo China Open in December seemed to kickstart his game, however, and he has since secured top-tens at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic and at last week's ISPS Handa Championship in Spain.
He carded an eagle, four birdies and a single dropped shot at PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness to get to five under and was happy with how his game was trending.
"I got a lot of confidence from last week, especially the big weekend," said the 26-year-old, who finished 64-67 in Tarragona.
"Right now I’m playing calm and I know where my ball is going. It’s a pretty cool position to be in.
Right now I’m playing calm and I know where my ball is going. It’s a pretty cool position to be in
"I’m very pleased to have this finish. I gave myself a lot of birdie chances. The game is quite solid right now and hopefully I can continue on for the next three days.
"It’s very tough actually, the rough is long and fairways are quite tight. You have to hit a proper shot but you get rewards if you play solid here."
Sebastian Heisele joined Li at five under after a roller coaster round containing six birdies, an eagle, a bogey and a double.
The German has played just once in the last two months due to Covid issues and was delighted to thrive on a course where he came through the Qualifying School in 2016.
"I had a bit of a lay off at home unfortunately, due to a few Covid incidents, so I’m pleased after that on this difficult course," he said. "It’s a proper test of golf, one of the better courses we play all year, so I’m excited about the 67 we have for today.
"Q School experiences helped, I knew what to expect from the course. I figured the set-up would be different to what we saw back then in 2016, the last time I was here. Not too many big changes to the course during that time, so it definitely helped, the local knowledge we will call it."
James Morrison also took advantage of the calmer early conditions to card a 67 but made just five pars, registering four bogeys and three birdies as he turned in 37 before making six gains on the back nine.
"I played really well, just hit some bad shots at the wrong time to start with," said the Englishman. "It’s one of those courses that you’ve just got to stick to it as there are plenty of chances coming up.
"Stuck to it and didn’t go breaking clubs or losing the head.
"Played nicely (on the back nine), hit a few shots close, kept the momentum going and hit the right shots at the right time.
"I was playing with my best mate Wade (Ormsby) so it’s always nice to have a bit of fun on the way round."