Madrid: World number one Luke Donald began the defence of his Madrid Masters title with a solid four-under-par 68 but was the highest scorer in his three-ball on Thursday.
Two uncharacteristic blemishes cost Donald a share of the early lead as he finished two strokes behind playing partner Edoardo Molinari and a shot adrift of the other man in the group, big-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.
An error of judgement caused Donald to bogey his ninth hole, the 18th, when his three-iron approach fell short and his ball finished in the lake and he missed a three-foot birdie attempt on his penultimate hole.
"The 18th played a little longer in than I thought and my three-iron didn`t quite get there," Donald said. "And the greens, which are very undulating, can be very difficult if you don`t hit them in the right spots."
Donald was happy enough with his opening round as he attempts to mop up a 166,660 euros ($220,000)first prize to accelerate away from his European money-list rivals.
He had begun the week in style by winning Wednesday`s pro-am playing alongside the late Seve Ballesteros`s 21-year-old elder son Javier.
Donald found the experience memorable. "I was very impressed with Javier, he is so like his father," Donald said. "I guess the genes have been passed down.
"It felt like I was playing with Seve. Not that I ever had the pleasure, but I`ve watched Seve so much on TV. He had the same mannerisms.
"He told me he had two or three years left studying law and then he might try and turn pro."
Italian Molinari came alight with two majestic approach shots around the turn which earned him three shots and he strode ahead with birdies on his last two holes.
Quiros, reporting no pain from the wrist injury that has cost him seven weeks of the season, shared second place with compatriot Eduardo De La Riva, Argentine`s Tano Goya and Britons Steve Webster and Bradley Dredge.