Rory McIlroy shrugged off the stiffness accumulated by 48 hours in bed with food poisoning to open with a four under 68 in the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai.
The world No 3 is five adrift of leader Branden Grace but it looks like a long way back for Offaly's Shane Lowry after he had a nightmarish 37 putts and shot a 74 that leaves him tied 70th in the 78-man field on two over.
"Probably a little better than I was expecting out there to be honest," McIlroy said of a round that began on the back nine with birdies at the 10th and 14th, followed by a sloppy double bogey six at the 16th, where he missed the green by 20 yards and left his pitch short.
The Race to Dubai leader hit back with birdies at the 16th, 18th (two putt), second and third and while he missed several chances, including a three footer for birdie at the eighth, he was happy to finish his round in a 14-day tied for 16th with the likes of Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia and Louis Oosthuizen, who is fourth behind him in the money title race.
"The one thing, when I was hitting balls this morning on the range, I mean, I had not been out of bed for basically 48 hours, so I was really stiff," McIlroy said. "Like I was really, really stiff. I needed to loosen up quite a lot. But whenever I got out there, I felt pretty good Thankfully it was a decent start, and now going to try to just get into the tournament."
As for his food poisoning scare, McIlroy said: "It happens. Looking forward to a good dinner tonight but hopefully it will stay inside my body.
"I've lost ten pounds since being here. I can't remember the last time I was this light. But hopefully a couple of good meals over the next couple days and rehydrate and I'll be feeling a lot better."
On his round, he said: "Felt like I played okay. Tee-to-green was pretty good. Disappointed I missed three good chances coming in there on the front nine and didn't quite capitalise on those. So it was a score that I thought could have been a lot better but considering the position I was in this time yesterday, it's not a bad start."
McIlroy had to battle to remain hydrated in a humid day, but explained: "Try to keep as much liquid in as possible and take on as much fluid as I can and keep doing those things and hopefully I'll keep feeling better and better as the week goes on."
On his round, he added: "It isn't too bad. Get out a little earlier tomorrow. Hopefully shoot a decent score, and get myself in there for the weekend."
Grace made nine birdies in a bogey free 63 to lead by one stroke from American world No 34 Kevin Kisner, Australian Steve Bowditch and Dane Thorbjorn Olesen.
England's Danny Willett, who is breathing down McIlroy's neck at second in the Race to Dubai, is only two strokes off the lead alongside Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson thanks to a seven under 65.
"We played pretty nicely last week (in Turkey), didn't lose too much ground and again this week, you have to put yourself somewhere near and see what happens," Willett said of his bid to close the 400,000 point gap on McIlroy with 1.3m points on offer for the winner of each Final Series event.
"I don't think [Rory's] playing next week, I don't know, and look I said, if you can be within touching distance going into Dubai, Dubai could be pretty interesting.
"If you can do it, great. If you don't, it's one of them, you've been up there and it's obviously been nice being up there and trying to compete for it. Yeah it would be nice come Sunday in Dubai."
Lowry is over 617,476 behind McIlroy in third in the Race to Dubai but while he hit 10 fairways and 15 greens at Sheshan International, his tally of 37 putts said it all.
If he needs inspiration, he can look back to his performance 12 months ago when he began with a 78 and followed up with rounds of 69, 74 and 68 to finish a respectable 34th.
On that occasion, Lowry had 33 putts on day one but improved on the greens each day to finish 25th for putting.
Even the leader wasn't happy with his putting.
"From the start I started hitting the ball nicely, and missed a couple of short putts which was costly," Grace said. "Could have been lower but made a couple nice ones that cancelled the others out. It was a good day. The ball-striking was probably the best in a long time, so that was the main key today.
"Today was phenomenal out there. Barely had a breath of wind out there and the golf course is playing, you know, probably as easy as it could be playing.
"There's some low scores out there. The guys are playing some great golf, and when you play on greens like this, as well, it helps. You just have to get the ball on the right line and it goes in."