The Scot, seeking a win to return to the world's top 50 and therefore gain entry to next month's Masters, shot a three-under-par 69 to tie for 32nd.
However, that was eclipsed by numerous others, especially Irishman Michael Hoey and India's Arjun Atwal, who both shot 62's to lead by one from England's Matthew Cort and South African Chris Williams.
Paul McGinley, the other big name in the tournament, was one under through 13 when lightning brought a premature end to the day's play.
Hoey, from Belfast, started on the back nine and bogeyed 12 and 13 before four birdies in his next five holes took him to the turn in 32.
The 26-year-old, who played in the same 2001 Walker Cup team as Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald and Nick Dougherty, improved dramatically in his closing nine holes with four birdies and an incredible 70-foot eagle putt three at the sixth.
"Graeme has been giving me encouragement over the years.
"He's up to 38th in the world and it shows anything is possible," said Hoey.
"Nick won in Singapore this year which was fantastic and Luke is doing well. I hope I can make an impact and find my way onto the European Tour.
"Sometimes I ask why I can't achieve success but you can't think of that. You just have to try and improve your game."
Cort played on the European Tour for three seasons before losing his playing privileges last year.
He turned to the Asian Tour, where he earned his card through qualifying school and he knows a win would give him a passage back to the European Tour. "This start has given me a good chance but scoring will be very low. I've just got to keep making the birdies," he said.
Montgomerie is another player looking for a win but for different reasons.
A victory will return him to the world's top 50 in time for Sunday's cut-off date for entry to the Masters.
Starting on the back nine he bogeyed the 12th but bounced back with birdies at 17 and 18 to turn in 33 one under par.
A birdie at the short par-four third was followed by another at the sixth one of only two par fives on the short par 70 course and although he dropped a shot at the eighth he recovered that at the short par-five ninth to finish five off the lead.