Rory McIlroy got the fast start he has been seeking all season when he opened with a 68 in the Open de Andalucia near Marbella.
The Ulsterman, 18, has missed five of his first eight cuts this season and the last three in a row.
But on a day when Damien McGrane also shot 68, McIlroy was pleased to lie just three shots behind defending champion Lee Westwood at Aloha.
As Westwood fired a blemish-ffree 65 to lead by a shot from Jan Are Larsen and English amateur Danny Willett, the Holywood kid had six birdies and just two bogeys to share fifth place with McGrane and three others on four-under par.
But he was also happy for Walker Cup team mate Willett, 20, who is playing on a sponsor's invitation.
He said: "I knew I was close and that it was only a matter of time before I started producing the scores.
"I'm not surprised Danny's up there. I practised with him on Tuesday and from 130 yards in he was stiffing it. Maybe he can do a Pablo."
Willett went to No 1 in the world amateur rankings following his Spanish Amateur victory at Pals last month.
He said: "I was quite nervous, but starting with a 25-foot eagle putt took a lot of the nerves out of the way.
"I proved to myself I can play a professional golf course and play well."
Almost a year ago in Portugal, Spaniard Pablo Martin became the first amateur ever to win on the European Tour, so does Willett think he can emulate him?
"I was joking about it before coming here. You never know - it's always in the back of your mind, but you can't think about it on the course," he said.
Darren Clarke suffered from blistered feet caused by a pair of new shoes as he hit a one over par 73.
"Don't call me stupid because I know I'm stupid," he said. "I played like a part-time professional and part-time 10-handicapper."
Peter Lawrie is tied 48th after an even-par 72 with Gary Murphy in 86th after his 74.