Rory McIlroy came from five strokes back to match American Keegan Bradley's four under par 67 and leave Darren Clarke and Charl Schwartzel way behind after the first round of the 36-hole PGA Grand Slam of Golf at Port Royal in Bermuda.
The event brings together the season's four major champions, with the winner earning almost £380,000 and even the player finishing last taking home more than £125,000. No European has won since Ian Woosnam in 1991.
McIlroy birdied three of the last five holes, but both fellow Northern Irishman Clarke and South African Schwartzel triple-bogeyed the short 16th as they managed only 77 and 74 respectively.
Bradley, whose victory in the USPGA Championship in August came in his first major appearance, went to the turn in a dazzling 30 to lead by four.
He actually started with a bogey, but then came eagles on the second and seventh and birdies at the third, sixth and ninth.
After he had stretched his advantage to five early on the back nine it became a different story, however. Bradley bogeyed the 14th and 16th as US Open champion McIlroy, who had flown from China for the tournament, found form to make a contest of it with birdies at the 14th, 15th and 17th despite some heavy rain.
It looks a straight fight between the two of them in the second round with Clarke and Schwartzel hitting tee shots down the cliff left of the 16th green.
McIlroy said: “I'm very happy. I gave myself so many chances on the front nine and didn't really make anything, but I finished really, really well.
“I'm in a good position going in to tomorrow.
“The greens were for me very difficult to read. I think if I had spent a bit more time on them maybe I would have figured them out a bit better today.
“I'll have to just read more into the grain and really take that into consideration instead of just the slopes.”
Clarke said: “It was absolute crap and I didn't come all the way here to play that bad, so obviously I'm disappointed.
“I've just been struggling with my swing, so if you mix that with putting equally as bad that usually doesn't add up to a good score.
“I'll try to find the answer in the bottom of a glass this evening and see how that works.”