Three of the world’s top four golfers are at the Dubai Desert Classic this week, but it was two players outside the top 200 setting the pace at the start.
England’s Anthony Wall and German Marcel Siem both birdied five of their first 11 holes to lead by one from Swede Johan Edfors.
Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer, second and fourth on the rankings, were among those not teeing off until the afternoon – Abu Dhabi winner Robert Rock was another – but Lee Westwood had to be content with only one birdie in his first seven holes.
Westwood was playing with Paul Lawrie, who triumphed in Qatar on Sunday, and the Scot also birdied the long 13th – their fourth of the day – before adding a second birdie on the 425-yard 16th.
Siem went to seven under by picking up further strokes on the short 15th and 16th, but was caught by Spaniard Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
The 27-year-old Canary Islander shot a European Tour record-equalling 60 to win in Austria three years ago and this time he had seven birdies on the back nine to turn in a brilliant 30.
Westwood birdied the 17th and 18th to improve to three under, while Lawrie was on the same mark after also two-putting the long 18th.
Third man in their group was Swede Alexander Noren and he leapfrogged both of them by holing his approach to the first for an eagle two.
The Emirates course was there for the taking with almost no wind, but not everybody was prospering. England’s Kenneth Ferrie stood seven over with six to play.