Jeev Milka Singh and Retief Goosen were the men in form at Doral in the WGC-CA Championship with England’s Oliver Wilson leading the European challenge midway through the opening round.
India’s Singh, who led the 2008 US PGA Championship after the opening round, was seven under par after playing 14 holes of the par-72, 7,266-yard Blue Monster course.
Starting on the 10th hole, he reached the turn in three under and jumped into the lead with a hat-trick of birdies at the first, second and third holes.
Another birdie at the fifth, his 14th, took him to seven under, where he was joined by South Africa’s Goosen, who recovered from a bogey at the 18th, his ninth of the day, by knocking in three straight birdies in this 80-man, no-cut tournament.
Wilson was two shots back on five under having played 11 holes.
The Ryder Cup player birdied his first two holes before stalling with a bogey at the par-four third.
The Mansfield golfer was soon back into his stride, though, with birdies at the fifth, seventh and 10th.
There was another birdie at the 398-yard par-four 11th where Wilson found the right rough off the tee but sent his second shot to 27 feet from the hole, from where he putted for a three.
South Africa’s James Kingston and Americans Nick Watney and Sean O’Hair were also on five under on their back nines.
O’Hair followed up his quarter-final appearance at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago by rattling in consecutive eagles at the opening par-five hole and the par-four second, pitching in on the latter from 41 yards.
Three shots off the lead on four under were American trio Charley Hoffman, after 15 holes, Boo Weekley, having played 10 and Kenny Perry, who was playing the ninth.
Open and US PGA champion Padraig Harrington began his round brightly as he attempted to bounce back from a first-round WGC-Accenture Match Play exit to Pat Perez two weeks ago and two missed cuts in his first four starts.
The Irishman birdied the first two holes and posted another at the fifth to leave him at three under after nine holes alongside Rory McIlroy, who eagled the first to continue his good form in the US.
The 19-year-old had reached the quarter-finals of the WGC-Accenture in his first Stateside tournament as a professional and followed up with a tie for 13th place in last week’s Honda Classic.
McIlroy was three under after eight having birdied the fifth and seventh either side of a bogey five at the sixth.
World number one Tiger Woods continued his comeback from knee surgery but was not firing on all cylinders in a solid if unspectacular opening round.
Woods, playing in his first stroke-play event in nine months, birdied his third hole, the par-five 12th but then bogeyed the next hole after finding the bunker in front of the green with his tee shot and then two-putting from 11 feet.
The world number one was back on track at his sixth hole of the round when he sent in his tee shot at the par-three, 172-yard 15th to within two feet of the hole, sinking the putt for birdie and going out in 35.
A third birdie of the round followed at his 10th hole, before a bogey at the fourth, his 13th left him at one under par.
Lee Westwood had started well, three under after 13 holes before being pegged back to two under with a bogey at the 14th with Luke Donald on the same mark with two to play.