Justin Rose raced to the front of the projected Race to Dubai standings following an opening 6-under 66 in the season-ending DP World Tour Championship.
Rose, who lies tied second behind Patrick Reed, knows a third consecutive win will see him be Europe's best for the second time, 10 years after he first won the Order of Merit.
EQUIPMENT: ROSE TESTING NEW "HI-TOE" WEDGE
"There's two things to think about this week: winning the golf tournament and winning the Race to Dubai," he said. "I know that if I do one of those, the first one, then the second one happens.
"I've just got to try and put together a really good final three rounds and do what I always do.
"Really happy with that as a start. I wanted to come out today with good intent and get myself moving forward quickly. Been fortunate enough to have won the last two events but been doing so from quite a long way behind and you can't always rely on that.
"I was definitely keen today to come out and try and get going as quick as I could this week and see where it goes from here."
Tommy Fleetwood, who led the Race to Dubai heading into this week, got off to a dismal start with an opening 1-over 73, but all is not lost for Fleetwood who can still lift the Harry Vardon Trophy should Rose finish lower than solo fifth.
Sergio Garcia, the only other play mathematically in with a chance of winning the season-long race, started with a 2-under 70. Garcia must win the tournament and rely on Rose finishing worse than solo fourth and Fleetwood finishing outside the top 20.
England's Matt Fitzpatrick, who is defending the DP World Tour Championship, lies two strokes off the pace on 5-under.
FIRST ROUND LEADERBOARD
-7 P REED (US)
-6 J ROSE (ENG), S HEND (AUS)
-5 A BJORK (SWE), R FOX (NZ), F ZANOTTI (PAR), A LEVY (FRA), P DUNNE (IRE), M FITZPATRICK (ENG)