Ricky Barnes fired eight birdies in a flawless 63 to lead the CIMB Asia-Pacific Classic on Thursday by a stroke from fellow American Ryan Moore.
The Californian coped best with the searing heat at the PGA Tour's inaugural event in Southeast Asia, rolling in putt after putt on an impeccable course at Kuala Lumpur's Mines Resort and Golf Club.
England's Brian Davis, South Korea's Charlie Wi and Sweden's Carl Pettersson are a shot adrift of Moore, who, like Barnes, were bogey-free for the day. The six million dollar event features only the leading 25 golfers from the PGA Tour's FedExCup standings, along with the top 10 players from the Asian Tour and five sponsor exemptions.
"I hit a lot of fairways and greens. In fact, I only missed my first green on hole 18," said Barnes, who played in Malaysia in 2002 as an amatuer at the Eisenhower Cup."I made it a very stress-free round on myself by putting from about 20 to 25 feet. I played really well. Hopefully I can keep the week going. It felt kind of hot after nine holes, but I was prepared for the weather.I drank a lot of water before I went out and that helped keep up the energy levels," he added.Barnes, whose best finish this year was third at the Memorial tournament in Ohio in June, is gunning for his maiden PGA Tour win.
Meanwhile, Thai veteran Thongchai Jaidee, compatriot Parija Junhasavasdikul and Singapore's Mardan Mamat proved Asia's mettle against the quality field by hitting credible 66s to be three off the pace. Scotland's Martin Laird matched their score, maintaining his good form after being beaten to the Shriners Hospital Open title on Sunday when Jonathan Byrd fired a hole-in-one at the fourth play-off hole.
Coming off an encouraging win in Bermuda last week, Ernie Els is lurking dangerously after carding a 67, recovering from a bogey on the first hole to stay in the hunt. Fellow South African Tim Clark and England's world number eight Luke Donald also hit 67s.
The bearded Moore, who has had six top-10 finishes in 24 starts this season, stroked a majestic 64, hardly putting a foot wrong as he sunk seven birdies in his last tournament of the year.
"I feel good after a seven-under-par anywhere, anytime, especially on a course I have not played before," said Moore, who admitted he began to flag from the heat over the final few holes. He continued, "I could really feel it the last couple of holes, the heat was zapping my energy. But it's my last tournament of the year and my last chance to win in 2010, so I want victory here."
The small field means there will be no halfway cut and the up-and-coming Parija, who made his breakthrough with a recent maiden Asian Tour victory in Taiwan, claimed he was making the most of the experience.
"I played with Ryan Palmer today and he won a PGA Tour event this year and finished top-10 last week. I set my goal this week for an experience and that's what I got," he said. "I'll let my skill do the talking. These guys are my idols. I'm still in the small league and they are in the big league. I hope I can step up soon," said Parija.
It was more of a learning curve for another Thai, Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who ended the day in joint last place with American J.B Holmes on 73.