Victor Perez claimed the early lead in the DP World Tour Championship thanks to an opening round of 67 in Dubai.
Perez reached the turn on one under but managed four birdies on the back nine of the Jumeirah Golf Estates' Earth Course, leaving him one clear on five under par.
The 28-year-old's impressive start puts him on course not only for success this week but also to become the first French player to end the year as Europe's number one.
However, other leading contenders for the latter honour were not too far behind on the leaderboard.
Tommy Fleetwood - Race to Dubai champion in 2017 - sat in a well-placed position at three under, while Patrick Reed, who went into the tournament top of the rankings, was a further shot back.
However, Perez's closest rivals on the leaderboard were Matt Fitzpatrick, Robert MacIntyre and Erik van Rooyen, the trio all sitting on four under.
"In the position I'm in, I have nothing to lose. I have everything to gain," the first-round leader said, after putting himself on course for a double celebration.
"So, for me, it's really a going-for-it mentality that I have to keep for four rounds."
He told the European Tour's website: "Obviously you still have to play proper golf and hit the right shots and sometimes take your medicine, but again, I have really nothing to lose, and it's a matter of making a lot of birdies."
Fleetwood birdied the final hole to sign for a score of 69, leaving him alongside fellow Englishman Tyrrell Hatton, two-time major winner Martin Kaymer and Sami Valimaki of Finland.
Reed, meanwhile, opened with a blemish-free card as he aims to make history - no American has ever finished on top of the end-of-year Race to Dubai rankings
Birdies at the seventh and the 18th saw the world number 11 become part of a nine-man group on two under, where he had company that included Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood.