Spain's Alejandro Cañizares shot a six-under par 66 on the opening day of the DP Tour Championship, the European Tour's last event of the year, to take a two-shot lead in Dubai after the opening round.
Race to Dubai leader Henrik Stenson is two shots back after a 68 left him at minus four, while Justin Rose - who is one of only three players with their destiny in their own hands - is a further two shots back after his two-under 70.
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell is the only other player guaranteed the title with a win, but he fell six shots off the pace with his opening round of level par.
World number six and compatriot Rory McIlroy - who won this event last year to seal his place at the top of the money list - managed a one-under par 71 on Thursday to leave him well placed going into the final three days of the tour's season.
Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter, enjoying an upturn in form, continued from where he left off in Turkey by compiling four birdies and a solitary bogey in his 69.
Lee Westwood, Francesco Molinari, Martin Kaymer and last week's winner Victor Dubuisson all accompany Rose in tied-tenth after rounds of 70.
The DP Tour Championship is the culmination of the European Tour's inaugural Final Series, hosted at the Earth Coast in the Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai.
Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Australia's Marcus Fraser both sit one shot behind leader Cañizares on five under, while Welshman Jamie Donaldson - who almost stole last week's Turkish Airlines Open title off Dubuisson with an ace on 16 - continued his solid form with a four-under 68.
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