Neck victim Padraig Harrington blasted a triple birdie finish to get his head in front in the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco.
The Open champ, 36, birdied the last three holes for a sensational six under par 67 and a three shot lead at Royal Dar es-Salam near Rabat.
Simon Dyson, David Howell and Mark O'Meara were left trailing in Harrington's wake in the race for the $150,000 top prize.
Playing on pain-killers after hurting his neck in Wednesday's pro-am, Harrington was simply delighted to take a commanding lead in the 24-man event.
Smiling after signing his card, he chimed: "Beware the injured golfer. I am very happy and very surprised though. I would have snapped your hand off if you had of offered me a 67 on the first tee.
"Any time you shoot six under you have to be happy and it's nice to birdie the last three holes. That always makes it a good round.
"There is a lot of work to be done and I still have a problem with the neck, but things went well for me today.
"I had no fives on the card - just all fours and threes and one two - so when you never make more than five on any hole that means you are going to have a good day."
Harrington had seven birdies and just one dropped shot on the testing par 73 track where he first played as a tour rookie in 1996.
But the European No 1 confessed that he is struggling with his injury ahead of next week's Volvo Masters, where he must beat Justin Rose and finish third to retain the Order of Merit.
Despite undergoing intensive treatment on his neck, he was clearly struggling to swing full out as he came up miles short with his 216-yard approach at the second.
He said: "I was conscious of my neck for most of the round but that shot at the second was a prime example of the difficulty I was facing.
"I worked the golf ball around the golf course really well and played really smart golf as well.
"But it really wasn't to the 18th that I could go at the ball 100 percent and there is no way I thought I would have shot six under par this time yesterday.
"It's a real bonus. Hopefully my neck will get better, though then I will probably play worse."
Darren Clarke hit a two under par 71 to be tied with Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin and India's Jeev Milka Singh.