Marc Warren overcame a missed cut last week to shoot a 9-under 63 and take a two-stroke lead after the opening round of the Maybank Championship on Thursday.
The Scotsman, a three-time winner on the European Tour, nearly lost his playing card last year but a fifth-place finish at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship set up a strong finish to 2016.
Thai teenager Phachara Khongwatmai was in second place after a 65, one stroke ahead of a group of six which included Masters champion Danny Willett, Peter Uihlein and local favorite Arie Irawan.
Warren had four birdies and an eagle on his opening nine holes at Saujana Golf and Country Club. He added back-nine birdies on 12, 14 and 17 in his bogey-free round.
“Once the wind picked up on the back nine, it was just a case of staying solid and hitting the greens,” Warren said. “More of the same tomorrow. My iron play was very good recently, and it was nice to get around without a bogey.”
The 17-year-old Khongwatmai won the Hua Hin Open on the ASEAN PGA Tour at the age of 14 in 2013, and is playing in his seventh European Tour event.
“I’m more confident in 2017,” Khongwatmai said. “My style is to be as relaxed as possible.”
Willett had a morning start and birdied his first two holes after starting on the 10th tee.
“It’s always nice to get out early when you’re in Malaysia,” Willett said. “It was still roasting hot this morning, but the wind stays calm for the first hour or so and allows you to get some shots in there nice and close.”
It’s been a slow start to the season for Willett, who missed the cut in Abu Dhabi and was tied for 54th in Dubai as defending champion.