Doha - England’s Oliver Fisher shot a brilliant seven-under-par 65 to upstage his fancied rivals in the first round of the $2.5 million Qatar Masters on Wednesday.
With conditions relatively calmer than expected, the 26-year-old produced a strong finish to put himself in contention for only his second title on the European Tour since turning professional in 2006.
A hat-trick of birdies over the final three holes gave him a one-shot advantage over Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello, who was sitting pretty on a six-under 66 after taking the clubhouse lead earlier.
Fisher, whose only title so far came at the Czech Open in 2011, had worked up some decent form at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship where he finished tied 12th and seems to have carried it through to Doha.
A bogey on his 13th hole somewhat blemished his effort, but he maintained his composure to close out the round in style.
“I played nice today - it was a little bit breezy and I felt like I controlled my golf ball,” said Fisher.
“I played good and gave myself a lot of chances so it was a good round.
“It's a great field like last week - I'm out there giving it my all every time until the last shot and hopefully add them up at the end of the day and hopefully it's a good run."
Fisher added they had been fortunate the weather held on Wednesday.
"We've been lucky with the conditions this afternoon," he said.
Earlier, Cabrera-Bello, who missed the play-off last year by one stroke to tie for third for the second time in Doha, started off with two straight birdies and picked up four more shots in a bogey-free round.
Cabrera-Bello had won the Dubai Desert Classic in 2012, but is yet to post a victory after that, although he was runner-up at last year’s BMW International Open.
But besides that, it was always trying to subtract instead of saving par,” said the Spaniard
“I always like playing there because the weather at this time of year is just like back home and maybe this is one of the reasons I generally play well in the Middle East,” he said.
Former winners Ernie Els of South Africa and Paul Lawrie of Scotland were in a bunch of 11 players a further shot down after carding bogey-free 67s.
"I started with a 37-inch putter and I'm now down to a 35-inch putter where I was back in my 20s,” said the South African.
A clutch of eight players, including England’s Justin Rose, were tied for fourth after posting 68s, while defending champion Sergio Garcia could only manage a 69 and was four shots behind leader Fisher.
Leading first round scores at the $2.5 million Qatar Masters at the par 72 Doha Golf Club:
65 - Oliver Fisher (ENG)
66 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP)
67 - Alejandro Canizares (ESP), Mark Foster (ENG), Branden Grace (RSA), Moritz Lampert (GER), Emiliano Grillo (ARG), Paul Lawrie (SCO), Alexander Noren (SWE), Ernie Els (RSA), An Byeong-Hun (KOR), Kristoffer Broberg (SWE), Darren Fichardt (RSA)
68 - Kiradech Aphibarnrat (THA), James Morrison (ENG), George Coetzee (RSA), Scott Jamieson (SCO), Justin Rose (ENG), Stephen Gallacher (SCO), Damien McGrane (IRL), Matthew Fitzpatrick (ENG)
69 - Thomas Aiken (RSA), Charl Schwartzel (RSA), Ricardo Gonzalez (ARG), Mark Tullo (CHI), Andrew Johnston (ENG), Renato Paratore (ITA), Peter Uihlein (USA), Thorbjorn Olesen (DEN), Eddie Pepperell (ENG), Bernd Wiesberger (AUT), Sergio Garcia (ESP), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Brett Rumford (AUS)
70 - Alvaro Quiros (ESP), Shiv Kapur (IND), Robert Karlsson (SWE), Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL), Michael Lorenzo-Vera (FRA), Eduardo De La Riva (ESP), Matthew Baldwin (ENG), Matt Ford (ENG), Henrik Stenson (SWE), Peter Lawrie (IRL), Seve Benson (ENG), Ross Fisher (ENG), Richard Green (AUS), Edouard Espana (FRA), Paul Waring (ENG), Julien Quesne (FRA), Gregory Havret (FRA), Gregory Bourdy (FRA), Jeev Milkha Singh (IND), David Drysdale (SCO)