Simon Dyson, who was handed a suspended two-month ban for cheating in December, shot a five-under-par 67 to take a share of the first round lead at the China Open.
The Englishman fired six birdies and a single bogey in his round in Shenzhen to end the day tied with big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros at the top of a congested leaderboard at the European Tour event.
“The first nine holes I played was the best I have played for quite some time,” Dyson said afterwards. “I missed two fairways – just – and didn’t miss a green, so gave myself a lot chances which is always nice and then I managed to make a couple of birdies on the other side for a tidy five under. It was a good start and very pleasing.”
The 36-year-old has enjoyed previous success in China, winning the event in 2000 as well as the Hong Kong and Macau Opens. But it was in Shanghai in October where he was disqualified from the BMW Masters and hit with a fine for fixing a spike mark on the line of a putt that led to his suspended ban.
Quiros won the last of his six European Tour titles in 2011 and his world ranking has since slumped to 240 but the Spaniard showed that his game was heading in the right direction.
Four birdies and an eagle at the par-five 13th put him in pole position to end his trophy drought.
Defending champion Brett Rumford of Australia made a strong start in his bid to become the first man to successfully retain the title after a 68 left him in a group of six players tied for third place.
Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin was leading the tournament at six under before a horror quadruple-bogey eight on the par-four 15th threw his charge off course. But he ended the day with a birdie for a three-under 69 and a share of ninth with, among others, Richie Ramsay who leads the Scottish challenge. That score was also matched by England’s Ian Poulter, who had four birdies in his round to sit alongside compatriot Simon Khan and home favourite Wu Ashun.
World No 3 Henrik Stenson, who can jump ahead of Tiger Woods and take top spot in the rankings with victory in China, suffered a fourth bogey of the day on the last for a 71. That was two better than US PGA champion Jason Dufner.
Play was suspended due to darkness with five players yet to complete their opening rounds.
Meanwhile, world No 1 Woods is taking a long-term view of his return to action and is thinking about “the next ten or 15 years, not the next ten weeks”, according to his agent.
The 14-times major winner missed this month’s Masters for the first time in 20 years after undergoing surgery on 31 March to correct a problem with a pinched nerve in his back.
No timescale has been put on his recovery and the American’s representative Mark Steinberg could only say he would return at some point this summer.
“He’s doing a little bit more and more each day,” said Steinberg. “He’s getting to the point of light chipping and putting and the doctors and trainers seem to be pleased with where he is.
“He is on schedule but we don’t know what that schedule means. I don’t know when he intends to be playing competitively but I expect it to be this summer.
“I know that’s a wide range but, as the weeks go by, we’ll be able to pinpoint an approximate time. It’s still a little early for that. Nothing that has gone on from the day of the surgery until today gives me any pause to amend what I said then.
“I’ve seen a very responsible approach [from Woods] to getting back. This is about the next ten or 15 years, this is not about the next ten weeks. He’s thinking about this very, very long term.”
The 38-year-old has featured in just four tournaments this year and has not played since the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral on 9 March.
June sees Pinehurst in North Carolina host the year’s second major before the Open Championship returns to Royal Liverpool, Hoylake, in July, where Woods won his third and most recent Claret Jug in 2006.