While John Daly rolled back the years, Yorkshire golfers Danny Willett and Richard Finch also made positive starts to their Qatar Masters campaigns.
Despite the tough windy conditions in the Middle East, both shot rounds of 69 to sit at three under par and in a tie for fifth.
They will begin the second round three shots off leader Gonzalo Fdez Castano, who birdied four of the last five holes for a 66.
But it was Daly who stole the limelight, the two-time major winner sitting alone in second place, one shot behind the Spaniard after a blemish-free 67.
Daly’s last victory was eight years ago, he no longer has a PGA Tour card and the last time he was in the headlines was for walking out of the Australian Open in November after hitting a succession of shots into a lake and saying he had run out of balls.
It was in a strong wind that he won the 1995 Open at St Andrews, but he did not expect this.
“I’m pretty shocked,” said Daly after keeping a bogey off his card.
“I had five and a half weeks off and really didn’t touch a club much.
“It’s one of the best rounds I’ve ever played in a wind like that. You feel like you are eating a lot of sand.”
Beneath the headlines, though, lurks a golfer of rare talent and he showed it again with birdies at the 13th and 16th to turn in 34, then picked up more strokes on the third, seventh and ninth.
Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal was another to reach five under, but then came four bogeys in the last seven holes for a 71.
Korean KJ Choi tucked in just behind with a 68, while Scot Paul Lawrie, county pair Willett and Finch, Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts and Swede Peter Hanson were one further back.
World No 4 Martin Kaymer, who missed the cut in his defence of the Abu Dhabi Championship last week, shot one under, one better than Sergio Garcia.
The desert storm was such that many players wore sunglasses to try to limit the amount of sand blowing into their eyes on what Daly called a “brutal” day.
Defending champion Thomas Bjorn slumped to a 79 and fellow stars Ross Fisher and Henrik Stenson both failed to break 80, but Lee Westwood kept his hopes alive with a 71.
Hull’s Finch, currently the world No 242, hit six birdies in his opening round but will be disappointed with the three bogeys that undermined his challenge.
The highlight of Willett’s round was an eagle on the 11th, the Sheffield player the only person to do so on the day.
Leeds’s Danny Denison looks set to miss a third cut in a row after an opening round 77 left him five over par.