A flawless 65 ensured Charl Schwartzel ended the first round of the Thailand Golf Championship with a slender one-shot lead.
The South African, looking to go one better after finishing as runner-up 12 months ago, did not drop a shot as he made his way to the top of the leaderboard on the back of seven birdies at the Amata Spring Country Club.
His efforts left him one clear of local hope Thitiphun Chuayprakong who posted a 66 and two ahead of Daniel Chopra of Sweden and Spain's Javi Colomo.
Schwartzel, who has been dogged by injury problems this season, insisted that a return to full fitness had been the key to his improving form in recent weeks.
"I'm just playing injury-free... that's allowing me to swing the club much better," stated the 2011 Masters champion. "My consistency is coming back and that's the key for me.
"When you are playing with injury, you always try to protect the injury and the consequence is a bad swing."
Solid start for Bubba
Reigning Masters champ Bubba Watson heads a five-man posse on four-under, the big-hitting American sparking to life after the turn with a birdie-eagle-birdie run.
"It was a solid round but I made a few mistakes," stated Watson who admitted the oppressive heat in Bangkok had proved an extra challenge.
Sergio Garcia made a solid start after a three-under-par 69; the Spaniard looked on course to go much lower having reached five-under midway through the back nine but fell away rather with some wayward putting.
"Hopefully I can play a little bit better tomorrow and shoot a good score and get myself in a good position for the weekend," Garcia said afterwards.
Defending champion Lee Westwood finds himself one shot behind the Spaniard and five off the pace after another day of frustration on the greens resulted in a round of 70.
The Englishman opened with a 60 last year as he turned the event into something of a victory parade, but cut an exasperated figure as he departed the final green on Thursday having been unable to capitalise on numerous chances.
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