Matteo Manassero's 68 left the Italian one shot shy of Hero Indian Open leader David Horsey on a testing opening day in New Delhi.
Manassero - a four-time winner on the European Tour - has struggled for form over the past couple of years, but he was one of only nine players with completed rounds to shoot under par on Thursday.
He topped the leaderboard when the threat of lighting forced a halt in play for 94 minutes, but was replaced at the summit by Horsey, who was five under through 15.
"I started well, which was important because I have been three weeks at home and to come back to a tough course like this, it's never easy," Manassero told the European Tour website.
"So the fact that I found a lot of birdies, it's very, very positive and I'll try to keep it that way.
"You have to be always in play, otherwise there will be a lot of high numbers and a lot of doubles It's very easy to lose shots on this course."
Englishman Horsey is among 66 players who will need to complete their first rounds at the Gary Player designed DLF Golf and Country Club - hosting an international men's tournament for the first time - on Friday, with compatriot Eddie Pepperell - sitting on three under - the next best placed of those who finished the first 18.
Also among the early pace-setters are Carlos Pigem, who is three under through 16, and Gregory Havret, who achieved the same score through 12.