Beijing - Alexander Levy fired six-under 66 to hold the joint lead in the lightning-affected Shenzhen International on Thursday, as two-time US Masters champion Bubba Watson made a slow start.
France's Levy won his first European Tour trophy in the 2014 Volvo China Open at Genzon Golf Club in southern China and said he felt the good vibes as he returned to the course.
"I just played great today... I feel my game is in a good way," the 25-year-old said in comments posted on the European Tour website.
"It's nice because you have some big memories and, for me, it's really nice to play on this place."
Levy shared the lead with South Korea's Lee Soo-Min, while South African Brandon Stone was a shot further back with one hole to play when the round was suspended for bad light.
The round was held up for 45 minutes as a lightning storm hovered, and 36 players were yet to complete 18 holes when fading light brought an end to day one.
America's Watson, the world number four, shot 71 on the par-72 course to be tied for 33rd alongside Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Victor Dubuisson.
Leading completed first-round scores (par 72):
66 - Alexander Levy (FRA), Lee Soomin (KOR)
68 - Eduardo de la Riva (ESP), Raphael Jacquelin (FRA), Joost Luiten (NED), Paul Dunne (IRL), Gary Stal
69 - Nathan Holman (AUS), Richie Ramsay (SCO), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG), Zhang Jia (CHN), Borja Virto Astudillo (ESP), Trevor Fisher Jnr (RSA)
70 - Lee Slattery (ENG), Yuan Tian (CHN), Ross Fisher (ENG), Bradley Dredge (WAL), Darren Fichardt (RSA), Sebastien Gros (FRA), Nacho Elvira (ESP), Wade Ormsby (AUS), Jorge Campillo (ESP)