Nicolai Hojgaard produced five birdies in six holes on the back nine to join Julien Guerrier and Matthieu Pavon at the top of the Dubai leaderboard.
Hojgaard, 22, was one over after six holes and level par at the turn but a strong finish ensured the Dane ended day one with a five-under round of 67.
He shares the lead with French pair Guerrier and Pavon in the season-ending tournament at Jumeirah Golf Estates.
Race to Dubai title winner Rory McIlroy is tied 15th at one-under-par.
McIlroy, 34, was crowned Race to Dubai champion for a fifth time after Max Homa’s victory at last week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge meant the Northern Irishman could not be caught by second-placed Jon Rahm.
The world number two is playing his first tournament since resigning from the PGA Tour’s Policy Board amid ongoing negotiations over how to fund its future.
Hojgaard has recorded three top-five finishes in his last four starts on the DP World Tour and his strong finish on day one has set him up to continue that form.
Pavon, 31, made four birdies on the back nine and compatriot Guerrier also carded a bogey-free opening round to keep pace.
A trio of players – Sweden’s Jens Dantorp, Frenchman Antoine Rozner, and Poland’s Adrian Meronk – are all one shot off the lead, while England’s Tommy Fleetwood and Scot Robert MacIntyre are on three-under.
Englishmen Tyrrell Hatton and Dan Bradbury are tied 11th on two-under, with compatriots Daniel Brown and Nathan Kimsey, plus Northern Ireland’s Tom McKibbin, all level with McIlroy a shot further back.
Due to inclement weather forecast on Friday, organisers confirmed the second round will be a two-tee start.