Damien McGrane overcame a bogey at the first today to make a solid start to the defence of his Volvo China Open title as four birdies saw the Irishman move to three-under-par through 11 holes.
Having opened with a five at the first, McGrane fought back by picking up shots at the fourth, sixth, ninth and 11th holes to leave the 38-year-old two behind leader Markus Brier.
However, playing partner Colin Montgomerie was not faring so well at the Beijing CBD International Golf Club.
The new Ryder Cup captain had spoken of rediscovering his winning touch prior to the co-sanctioned event, but after birdieing the first, bogey fives at the second and fifth and a bogey six at the ninth left the Scot struggling on two-over-par through 11.
Welshman Stephen Dodd, a former winner of this event in 2004, made a move early in his round with two birdies but a double-bogey six at the eighth pegged him back to level-par.
Brier had earlier carded a five-under-par 67 to hold a one-shot lead over England's Nick Dougherty and Australian David McKenzie.
The Austrian, who captured the China Open title in 2007, began strongly with three birdies in his opening four holes sandwiching a bogey at the 12th and he reached the turn in 34.
A run of three consecutive birdies, including a chip in at the par-three third and an unlikely three at the fourth after finding the rough, saw Brier move into the lead before he missed an eight-foot putt for par at the ninth to drop back to five-under.
"I started quite well off the tee, hit a lot of early fairways and that gives you a lot of chances," Brier said.
"I hit some good irons, the putter was really hot as well so that's a good combination. I made all the crucial par saves as well and that kept the round alive."
Dougherty, by contrast, made a steady start with eight consecutive pars before picking up shots at the 18th, first and second holes.
A two at the par-three sixth saw him eventually card a bogey-free 68 and felt he could have gone even lower. However, after a tough 2008 that saw the sudden death of his mother, Dougherty was delighted to once again be back in contention, even if it only proves to be one round.
"It was great start," he said.
"I played super today but it's been coming that though. I've been playing quite well recently but just finding my way out from where I've been over the last year has taken a bit longer than I thought, confidence is one of the last things to come back.
"It was great. I could have feasibly birdied every hole on the back nine and four-under is a great score, no bogeys is great."
McKenzie's challenge, meanwhile, was sparked by an eagle two at the par-four fifth after holing his second shot from 102 yards.
The Australian had played his first 13 holes in level-par following two birdies and two bogeys but picked up further strokes at the sixth and eighth following his eagle to move alongside Dougherty.
"The funny thing is after three-putting the previous hole, I was thinking as I walked along wouldn't it be nice to hole a shot here (the fifth) and then make a couple of birdies coming in," he said.
Simon Dyson was level with McGrane at three-under after carding a 69. The 31-year-old from York did all his damage over his opening nine holes as birdies at the 10th, 13th, 16th and 17th, where he chipped in for a three, was offset by a bogey at the 12th.
Dyson had chances to pick up further shots towards the end of his round, hitting an approach to 10 feet at the seventh but saw a birdie putt agonisingly lip out before failing to convert longer opportunities at the eighth and ninth.
"I played nicely," he said.
"With my bogey, I hit a good shot, got a little bit unlucky and three-putted it. It was a nasty first putt but I'm pleased with that.
"I had quite a few good chances out there, hit some good putts but they just didn't want to drop."