Martin Kaymer tied the course record with an opening round of 63 to hold a two-shot lead at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Now ranked 61 in the world, the German has gone more than two years since his last tournament triumph, which came at the HSBC Champions in Shanghai back in November of 2011.
However he raised hopes of ending his barren run with a flawless nine-under round that saw him come home in 29 shots, the best ever at Sawgrass.
Starting out on the back nine, Kaymer birdied his second and added another at the par-four 16th. He then caught fire after the turn, starting out with back-to-back birdies before completing his work with another four in a row.
His stunning finish saw him move past long-time leader Russell Henley, who managed six birdies on his back nine to set an early target at seven under. Sang-Moon Bae is a further shot adrift after signing for a 66.
"I played a lot better the last four or five weeks," Kaymer told Sky Sports. "I didn't make that many mistakes recently.
"Overall I'm very happy with the way I'm playing golf right now. The ball striking has been a lot better for the past two or three months.
"At the beginning I couldn't make many putts, so I've worked on that a little bit more for the past three or four weeks. That worked out quite nicely today."
Kaymer is the fourth player to shoot 63 at the TPC course - Roberto Castro managed it last year, while Greg Norman (1994) and Fred Couples (1992) have also previously achieved the feat.
The 2010 US PGA champion was not the only member of Europe's successful Ryder Cup team of two years ago to impress on Thursday at an event dubbed the sport's fifth major.
English duo Lee Westwood and Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia of Spain all finished up on five under. Another Spaniard, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, was on the same score along with American quartet Jordan Spieth, Scott Stallings, Brian Stuard and Gary Woodland.
Graeme McDowell recovered from a sluggish start, he was two over after six holes, to return a 69 but fellow Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy had to settle for a disappointing 70 - he had been five under through 11.
Meanwhile, Adam Scott may have wished he'd have stayed at home after an opening 77. The Australian would have overtaken Tiger Woods at the top of the world rankings if he had not played this week.
Henrik Stenson, who needs a top-six finish to pass Woods, returned a 71, the same as another no 1 hopeful in Matt Kuchar, despite the American hooking his drive into water on the 18th to close with a double bogey.
Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson, who needs to be alone in second or better on Sunday evening to move ahead of the absent defending champion, was on three under after a 69.
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