Former US Open champion Michael Campbell has begun the year in top form at the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour.
Campbell, who got back to his best last year in a run that included a third place finish in Portugal and a tie for eighth in Hong Kong, has carded a three under 69 in his first round for this year to be in a share of fifth place in the world-class field.
The eight-time European Tour winner got off to a fine start when he played the front nine in three under 33.
He added further birdies on 10 and 13 to get into a share of the lead but dropped shots coming home on 15 and 16 to sign for a 69.
He will begin round two, two shots back from England's Justin Rose and Welshman Jamie Donaldson who opened with rounds of five under 67.
The 43-year-old has fought his way back to his best and is looking for his first victory since the World Match Play at Wentworth in 2005.
Rising Dane Thorbjorn Olesen and Spain's Pablo Larrazabal are third equal a further stroke back.
On 69 were a quintet comprising George Coetzee of South Africa, China's Liang Wen-Chong, Englishman David Howell, Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Campbell.
Tiger Woods had four birdies set off by as many bogeys for a level par 72, while Rory McIlroy's first competitive outing with his new Nike clubs ended in frustration as he struggled to a 75 that included two double bogeys.
Fifth-ranked Rose said his bogey-free 67 in tough conditions on a tough course had been a "perfect start to the season" but that he would not read too much into the eight-stroke gap that separates him from McIlroy and the five-stroke lead he has over Woods.
"It's the first round of the year. There are a lot of factors involved, certainly a lot of factors for Rory involved this week," he said.
"Tiger shot level and that's well within the golf tournament. So for me there's really no surprises there."
Donaldson had a solid start from the 10th but moved swiftly up the leaderboard with three birdies in five holes from the first.
"I hit two ropey wedge shots on the second and third and I made two birdies from them.
"So that was a turning point for the day and kept the momentum going," he said.
Playing together and with three-times former Abu Dhabi winner Martin Kaymer completing the grouping, McIlroy and Woods were the day's big draw.
Europe's choice of Paul McGinley as captain for the defence of the trophy at Gleneagles, Scotland, next year had dominated most of the build-up to a tournament which has become a platform for the top players to open their seasons.
But the focus in perfect, early morning conditions switched to McIlroy and Woods, who now find themselves as stablemates of sportswear giant Nike following the Northern Irishman's mega-money deal announced here on Monday.
How he would fare with his new clubs was one of the talking points of the day and by the end of it he at least knew he still had some hard work to do to get the hang of them.
"Yeah, a bit of rust for sure," he said. "Not playing any competitive golf for eight weeks."
Woods started well enough, but he started to struggle with a badly topped drive at the first (his 10th) that barely reached the fairway 180m away.
He bogeyed that hole and another poor drive on the next brought another bogey.
He birdied the eighth but three-putted the last to fall back to level par.
"My game plan [on the first] was to hit 3-iron or 5-wood on that hole, especially with this wind," he said.
"And then I changed the game-plan and wasn't committed to the shot. I paid the price, making bogey."