Tommy Fleetwood is in action in Hong Kong for the UBS Open after winning the Race to Dubai last week.
Starting on the 11th hole, the six-time Asian Tour victor dropped a lone shot on the fifth but sank his sixth birdie on the ninth to finish one shot ahead of compatriot Shubhankar Sharma and Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick.
"The last few weeks of last season it was all about trying to win the Race to Dubai and it's impossible to take your mind off that".
The 2016 victor, Australia's Sam Brazel, and Masters champions Sergio Garcia, are among those tied for 19th at one under.
Olympic champion Justin Rose had predicted following the previous day's pro-am warm-up that four-under would be a good score given the course's rapid greens and swirling winds, and he duly finished two-under.
Fitzpatrick is one off the lead after an opening 66
"That was a really tough, hard morning of golf", he said afterwards.
Playing in a group with compatriot Tommy Fleetwood and defending champion Sam Brazel, Fitzpatrick hit six birdies to finish with a 66 on the par-70 course, putting him in second place one stroke off the first-round lead.
Garcia also bogeyed the last to cap an entertaining inward 36, which he started with a double-bogey at the 10th before reeling off three birdies in five holes from the 12th.
A bogey apiece at the 18th capped a disappointing end to Rose and Garcia's rounds in windy conditions on the course in Fanling.
The six-time Asian Tour victor leads by one over Matthew Fitzpatrick of Britain and Shubhankar Sharma of India after overcoming the tricky windy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club.
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