RICKY Barnes of the United States played a "stress free" round of eight birdies to lead the US$6 million (RM18.5 million) CIMB Asia Pacific Classic Malaysia by one shot at the Mines Resort and Golf Club yesterday.
He had an eight-under 63, after finding 17 greens and only missing the first hole.
Countryman Ryan Moore shot a flawless 64 to lie one back while South Korea's Charlie Wi, a seven-time Asian Tour winner and a regular on the PGA Tour, shared third place with England's Brian Davis and Sweden's Carl Pettersson with identical 65s.
Thailand's Pariya Junhasavasdikul and reigning Asian Tour No 1 Thongchai Jaidee shot 66s, as did Singapore's veteran Mardan Mamat, who enjoyed two eagles over his closing four holes.
Barnes, the strapping golfer who won the Eisenhower Cup in Saujana Golf and Country Club in 2002, remembers the heat even after eight years.
"I remember the heat back in 2002! I had to fuel up before going out there and it felt good. Today (yesterday), after nine holes I felt kind of hot but was prepared to face the weather.
"I have good memories in Malaysia and hopefully I can keep the week going," said Barnes.
Moore was more at ease with the course and looking forward to winning his first title in his last tournament of the year.
"It is nice to shoot seven under, anywhere, anytime. So to do it in a tournament in the first round at a course which I've really never played, was a good way to start," said Moore.
"I recently moved to Dallas, where it is just as hot as Malaysia, and maybe that helped me. I have not won any tournament this year, and it would be nice if I could continue with this form for the next three days and end my season with a title."
Even though he has been here for a week, the last three holes drained his energy.
"I had to drink a lot of water and was all right until the last three holes where I could feel the energy leaving my body. I will just have to be better prepared for the end game in the next three rounds," said Moore.
US-based Wi, who won twice in Malaysia previously, birdied his closing two holes to stay close to the leader.
"We got three more rounds to go and I really enjoyed the course. If you want to win a tournament, you have to be as close to the lead as possible," said Wi, who is chasing his first PGA Tour victory.
The front-runners upstaged their more illustrious rivals, as the tournament's two highest ranked stars -- World No 8 Luke Donald of England and 11th ranked Ernie Els of South Africa, hit 67s.