Jose Maria Olazabal’s third career comeback appeared to be going to plan at the Madrid Masters to be three off the lead after his first round.
The 42-year-old showed no signs of the injury and fatigue which have plagued him since June, when he played his last competitive round.
He carded three birdies and one bogey in his first nine holes, having started on the 10th, but dropped shots at the first and eight after the turn, with his only birdie coming at the 540-yard seventh as he returned a one-under-par 70.
Olazabal trailed clubhouse leaders Magnus Carlsson and Paul Broadhurst, who both carded 67s.
Swede Carlsson was one under after nine but propelled himself up the leaderboard with a birdie at 14 and an eagle on the par-four 15th, holing a 125-yard approach shot with a nine iron, adding another birdie at the last.
Englishman Broadhurst completed a satisfying finish by holing a birdie putt on the ninth – his 18th – for birdie, which was his second in three holes.
The European Tour stalwart went to the turn in two under and moved to four under by picking up further shots at the third and fourth holes but back-to-back bogeys at the next two holes cost him the outright lead.
Steven Jeppesen was one shot back on three under having fired four birdies in succession, and he was joined by Thailand’s Thongchai Jaidee, who eagled the par-five seventh, and Spaniards Francis Valera, Carlos Del Moral and Pablo Larrazabal.
Larrazabal, teeing off from the 10th, had two birdies and an eagle to lead for a spell, but dropped shots at the first, third and fifth to fall back.