Padraig Harrington motored to a solid 68 as Swede Henrik Stenson avoided a car smash to contend for the Abu Dhabi Championship.
The Dubliner finished the day five shots adrift of red-hot Philip Archer, who took just 24 putts in a nine under par 63.
But their exploits were overshadowed by Ryder Cup star Stenson, who hit a bogey free 66 shortly after a potentially disastrous collision with a lorry.
The Dubai based Swede had to swerve off the road to avoid crashing into the side of a lorry on his way to the course.
Stenson joked: "I was feeling a bit sleepy in the morning but what happened woke me up.
"I missed the road as I was driving to the course and had to take a detour. Not far from here, a lorry turned right across the traffic in front of me and I had to hit the brakes and just managed to avoid going into the side of it.
"I scratched my car and ended up in the sand off the road. I got here 45 minutes before my tee time instead of an hour and 45 minutes.
"The guy didn’t speak English but said sorry and I had to leave the scene without waiting for the police.
"I didn’t have many swings on the range so 66 was a good start after everything that happened."
In the end, Stenson finished the day tied for second place with Nick Doughery and Retief Goosen on six under par.
But that still left him three shots off the pace set by Englishman Archer - the Warrington pro who shot 60 in the Wales Open at Celtic Manor last year.
Defending Order of Merit champion Harrington showed early signs of rust on his first outing of the year.
But he admitted that "only a fool" would be unhappy to shoot four under par in blustery afternoon conditions.
After finishing in a ten-man log jam for eight place, he said: "I made some early bogeys that I might not have made had we been in the middle of the season.
"But I can't complain about a 68 - I am very happy and I definitely would have taken it before I went out."
Harrington had three birdies and two bogeys in the first six holes but settled down to pick up three shots from the eighth.
And he admitted that he was blissfully unaware of Archer's sensational start until he saw the leaderboard at the 18th.
Archer, 34, opened up a three shot lead over thanks to yet another impressive putting display.
The Englishman - who came within one stroke of shooting the European Tour's first 59 at Celtic Manor last season - single putted 12 times as he hit ten birdies and dropped just one shot.
It was a good day for the rest of the Irish brigade too with Peter Lawrie and Graeme McDowell firing one under par 71s - one better than Gary Murphy and Damien McGrane.