Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin fired an opening round 67 to lead the Volvo Golf Champions event in Durban, South Africa.
The 39-year-old, who won last year's Spanish Open in April, leads the 36-man field by a shot from home hope Louis Oosthuizen.
Jacquelin defied strong crosswinds blowing in from the Indian Ocean to be the only player in the elite field not to drop a shot, his five-under-par round featuring three birdies in the last five holes.
"I'm better when the conditions are difficult," he said. "I score better when it's difficult with the wind or rain or if the course is difficult, like playing majors like the US Open.
"I like it when it's tough. Stay focused all day long and I know if you save par you are always going to be around (the lead). That's the way I like to play.
"It's a tricky course but if you stay focused it's wide off the tee. We always have 40 metres to put the ball in play, which is pretty good for us, but it's just the vision of all the trees and the bushes around the course that make it difficult.
"But if you just trust yourself and don't try to guide the ball it's not too bad."
Playing partner Colin Montgomerie, who has largely played seniors golf since turning 50 last year, finished in the same vein to reach two under par, while Darren Clarke went one better with a three-under 69.
Clarke has lost almost three stone in weight as he looks to reproduce the golf which brought him a first major title at Royal St George's in 2011.
"My objectives are getting back to playing some of the golf I know I can play," said the 45-year-old. "I have had a frustrating last couple of years where I have not played that badly but made stupid mistakes.
"I took a look at myself in October and thought I was getting too fat so it was time to do something about it. I spend a lot of time in the gym and changed my diet and hopefully I will reap the benefits.
"I plan to keep doing what I am doing and maybe get stronger and stronger. I hit a drive on the 10th today of 300 yards back into the wind and another driver from 280 yards to the green and I couldn't have done that before."
Victor Dubuisson of France sits alongside Clarke in a tie for third place ahead of a host of players a shot further back.