Paul Broadhurst, the Atherstone golfer who last won a European Tour event ten years ago, pushed himself into the early reckoning at the TCL Classic in China when he shot a 65 in the first round.
Broadhurst, whose last victory came at the Peugeot French Open in 1995, had a bogey-free round to finish seven-under-par - staying one behind the leading pack which included Paul Casey, who is making his first appearance outside America this season.
On a day of low scoring, Broadhurst, who starred in Europe's infamous 141/2-131/2 Ryder Cup defeat at Kiawah Island, picked up seven birdies to maintain his challenge.
2004 Ryder Cup star Casey shot a flawless eight-underpar 64 to set the pace alongside Swedish pair Fredrik Andersson Hed and Johan Edfors and Thailand's Chawalit Plaphol.
Casey, starting on the back nine with playing partners Colin Montgomerie and China's Lian-Wei Zhang, ran up four successive birdies between the 12th and 15th to turn in 32.
He immediately birdied the par-five first and the 480-yard second to move to six-under and back-to-back birdies on his closing two holes briefly put him clear at the top of the leaderboard.
"It is such a nice course and if you put the ball in play, there are birdies to be had," said Casey.
"If you look at the rest of the scores, everybody is shooting low numbers.
"I like the course. This is a lot like what I play every day of the week when I am not on tour. I can figure my way round Robert Trent Jones Jr's courses."
Ryder Cup team-mate Montgomerie, who is looking to finish no lower than second to get into the world's top 50 and earn a place at next month's US Masters, is three shots back on five-under.
Like Casey the Scot recorded four birdies in his first nine holes but a bogey six at the 543-yard 13th spoiled his card.
Birdies after the turn at the fourth and ninth holes saw him shoot 67 but that was only good enough for a tie for 22nd as 125 players shot sub-par scores on the benign Yalong Bay Golf Club in Sanya on the Chinese province of Hainan Island.
Ryder Cup captain Ian Woosnam fired four birdies but gave back two strokes to finish on two-under-par alongside Robert Rock, the Belfry pro, who lost his Tour card after a disappointing rookie season last year.
Rock, relying on invitations to Tour events this year, fired mixed 70 while Hill Valley's Jonathan Lomas, the only other player from the Midlands, crumbled to a dismal 78 after dropping six shots.
Scotland's Ross Bain, who has yet to win after joining the European Tour in 2001, is tied for fifth after a round of seven-under which included an eagle three at the 15th and five other birdies.
Also seven- under is another Ryder Cup player Paul McGinley, who also harbours hopes of regaining a place in the world's top 50.