Agadir, Morocco – Damien McGrane fired a seven-under 65 on shot lead after the first round of the Trophee Hassan II tournament.
Alejandro Canizares is alone in second place at five-under 67 at Golf du Palais Royal.
Edoardo Molinari headlines a group tied for third place at four-under 68.
The entire field is chasing a 40-year-old Irishman with one European Tour victory in his career.
McGrane began on the 10th tee Thursday and started spectacularly with an eagle at his opener. He mixed two birdies and two bogeys in a four-hole span from the 12th, but back-to-back birdies at 17 and 18 allowed him to reach four- under par for the tournament.
McGrane parred his first three after the turn, then dropped a shot at the par- four fourth.
At the par-five fifth, McGrane laid up with his second and wedged his third to three feet. He kicked in the short birdie to get back to four-under par.
McGrane kept the momentum going with a birdie at No. 6. He parred the seventh and closed out his round in impressive fashion, especially with the flat stick.
At the par-three eighth, McGrane knocked his tee ball to 35 feet and drained the birdie putt to grab sole possession of first place.
One hole later, McGrane poured in a 12-footer for birdie to build his two- stroke cushion.
"I played beautifully today and I'm delighted with it," said McGrane, who won the 2008 China Open by a staggering nine shots. "I got off to a fast start and I managed to keep it going and finish it off nicely.
"It is testing out there at the moment, the greens are beautiful out here. If you play well you get plenty of opportunities and it's in pristine condition obviously."
Molinari was joined in third by Richie Ramsay, Graeme Storm, Robert-Jan Derksen, Kenneth Ferrie, Phillip Price and Jorge Campillo.
Italian teenager Matteo Manassero, who is still trying to play his way into the Masters in two weeks, carded a three-under 69 and is part of a logjam tied for 10th place.
NOTES: Edoardo's brother Francesco shot a two-under 70 and is tied for 18th place...Defending champion David Horsey managed an even-par 72 and shares 35th with, among others, former PGA Champion Rich Beem and last week's Open de Andalucia winner Julien Quesne...Soren Hansen withdrew on Thursday.