Ricardo Santos fired a 7-under 65 on Wednesday to establish a 1-shot lead after the opening round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters.
Santos, the 2012 Rookie of the Year, is coming off a fourth-place finish at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. He is looking to secure his second European Tour victory after capturing the Madeira Islands Open title during his inaugural campaign.
"I just played really well, especially my short game," Santos said. "I missed a few shots from the tee but then recovered very well and just kept it like that."
Anthony Wall, Peter Whiteford and Alexandre Kaleka all shot 6-under 66 amid pristine conditions at Doha Golf Club to end the first round in a tie for second place.
Simon Khan, Brett Rumford, Martin Wiegele, Gary Lockerbie, Chris Wood and Andy Sullivan are 5-under, while world No. 4 Justin Rose is part of a large group at 4-under.
Rose, who tied for second with Thorbjorn Olesen in Abu Dhabi, was assessed a 1-stroke penalty on No. 17 when his ball moved as he grounded his putter prior to a tap-in par attempt.
Ryder cup hero Martin Kaymer, world No. 18 Peter Hanson and Olesen also carded a 4-under 68 on Wednesday.
Sergio Garcia made his season debut and recorded four birdies against a bogey en route to a 69. He is tied for 24th with a large group, while Branden Grace, who took fifth in Abu Dhabi, is knotted with several others at minus-2.
World No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen, a victor at the Volvo Golf Champions in his previous event, is 1-under; as is Jason Dufner, who is making his first appearance in Qatar.
Ernie Els and defending champion Paul Lawrie both shot even-par. If Lawrie can rally for the win, he will accomplish a trio of feats: In addition to becoming the tournament's first-ever back-to-back winner and its only three-time champion, he will also become the oldest player in European Tour history to defend his title -- 44 years and 25 days.
Paul McGinley, who was recently named the European team's 2014 Ryder Cup captain, is 1-over.
Santos, ranked No. 183 in the world, went out with the morning wave on the 10th tee Wednesday and opened birdie/bogey. He didn't drop a shot the rest of the day and picked up five birdies during his outward nine to exit the course with a 1-stroke lead -- a margin which remained intact through the remainder of the round.
"When you start like that, get to the top of the leaderboard, it's really nice -- especially when you play quite well," Santos continued.
NOTES: Santos came through the Challenge Tour two years ago after making six unsuccessful trips to the European Tour Qualifying School ... Lawrie also won this event in 1999 ... This tournament marks the second of a three-week stay for the European Tour in the Middle East ... Jamie Donaldson captured the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship last week. Next week, the swing concludes with the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.