Miguel Angel Jimenez, fresh from a victory on Sunday in Germany, carded a 6-under-par 65 on Thursday in the first round of the European Masters.
The 40-year-old Spaniard, expected to be a mainstay on Europe's Ryder Cup team in two weeks against the Americans, was one clear of fellow Ryder Cup player Sergio Garcia.
Also in at 66 were Marc Farry of France, Peter Baker of England and Swede Peter Hedblom.
Luke Donald, the third Ryder Cup player in the tournament, was two back in a large group at 67.
Defending champion Ernie Els struggled through his opening nine with two bogeys and no birdies, but made five birdies against on his second nine for a 2-under 69.
Jimenez shot 21-under-par to win by two strokes in Munich on Sunday -- his fourth win of the season. He was just as good on Thursday.
Starting at the 10th, he birdied his first two holes, and the 14th and 18th. On the front nine, he birdied the first and the fourth and didn't drop a shot in the round.
"I hit the ball very solid and it seemed easy," he said. "At the moment, I'm in a good mood and happy with everything around me."
Farry had just one bogey, at the 16th.
Donald played with Els -- they started at the 10th -- and was 5-under after 11 holes. But he had a double-bogey and bogey on successive holes -- the fourth and fifth -- but recovered with birdies on the next two holes.
"I think I lost my concentration a little bit. The last few weeks, I have been playing under pressure. Today I just wanted to enjoy myself. So maybe I let it slip slightly."
In his first outing since finishing 65th in the NEC Championship two weeks ago, Els started slowly.
"On the first nine I was a bit off and hit some wayward shots," he said. "It wasn't a happy first nine. I had two little three-putts and they hurt me.
The rankings say one thing. Fiji's Vijay Singh knows otherwise.
"When I tee it up, I think nobody is going to beat me," the presumptive player of the year said of his chances of taking over the No. 1 world ranking this week. "That's the way you've got to think in this game -- or any game, for that matter."
Singh could take over the top spot if he finishes higher than Tiger Woods at the Deutsche Bank Championship. Considering that Singh is playing better than anyone -- winning five times this year, including the PGA Championship -- many consider it a matter of time before he knocks Woods out of the spot he has held for a record 264 consecutive weeks.
"I'm tired of listening to that, really," Singh said after a pre-tournament Pro-Am Thursday at the par-71, 6,674m TPC of Boston course. "I'm just going to try to enjoy it. I think that focus has been out of my mind for two or three months already now and I'm not going to think about it.
"If it happens this week, it's fine. Sooner or later, someone is going to overtake that. If it's not me, it's Ernie Els of South Africa or somebody else. If I play well this week, it's going to take care of itself."
Woods has more than the rankings on his mind as he prepares for the tournament: His father has had a relapse of prostate cancer.
"It's been tough," Woods said. "It's just like it was back in '96 and '97, when my dad had a heart attack and had complications with heart surgery."
No one has been more influential in making Woods the golfer he is than his father, Earl, who taught his toddler to swing a club and then, when Tiger was a junior golfer, would jangle coins or shout during his backswing to toughen the kid up.