First round leaderboard: -8 M Brown (NZ) -7 R McIlroy (NI), JM Singh (Ind) -6 S Dyson (Eng), S Hansen (Den) -5 G McDowell (NI), R Davies (Wal), D McGrane (Ire), Y Nam (S Kor), O Wilson (Eng), K Ferrie (Eng) Selected others: -3 I Poulter (Eng) -1 J Daly (US), C Montgomerie (Sco) +2 MA Jimenez (Spa), D Clarke (NI)
Rory McIlroy is keen to make it third time lucky in Hong Kong
Rory McIlroy carded a first-round 63 in the Hong Kong Open to lie one shot off lead, held by New Zealand's Mark Brown.
McIlroy, 21, sporting blond highlights, fired eight birdies to join India's Jeev Milkha Singh in second spot, one stroke ahead of England's Simon Dyson.
Dyson, winner in Hong Kong in 2000, recorded a hole-in-one on the 12th.
Graeme McDowell, looking to close the gap on Martin Kaymer in the Race to Dubai, shot 65 to stand four shots off the pace in a group of five players.
Northern Ireland's McDowell was trailing Kaymer by £313,000 going into the European Tour's penultimate tournament.
But with the German skipping the event, which offers a £265,000 top prize, McDowell can steal a march going into next week's Dubai World Championship.
McDowell performed well in Thursday's opening round at the Hong Kong Golf Club to sit in fourth place alongside Irishman Damien McGrane, Wales' Rhys Davies, England's Oliver Wilson and South Korea's Nam Young.
"I would have taken that score at the start of the day and I am definitely feeling good about my game," US Open champion McDowell said.
McIlroy lost in a play-off to Lin Wen-tang in this event in 2008, while last year's tournament saw Gregory Bourdy triumph after finishing two shots clear of the Northern Irishman.
Defending his crown, the Frenchman finished the day on four under, while one of Europe's Ryder Cup stars, Ian Poulter, was one shot further back on three under.
McDowell pitches into the green during his 65 at the Fanling course
McIlroy won on the US Tour in May but his last European victory was the Dubai Desert Classic in February 2009.
"I don't think the fact I have not won a European Tour event in 18 months will play a part I think it will be more about me trying to win this tournament," he said. "I have wanted to win it for the last couple of years.
"I have to get myself into that position first and if I am I think I will be okay."
Regarding the new hair colour he said: "My girlfriend was very much against it, but it was just something I want to do. When you get back to Northern Ireland on a cold November day you do get quite bored and it is something different I thought I'd try."
Dyson was delighted with his early efforts and will be one of the favourites to succeed again, 10 years after winning at the same tournament.
"Having done what I did in 2000, every time I came out here after that people who used to say 'Dyson is fancied out here' and it kind of gave me the mentality that I was," said the world number 78 from York.
"A lot of my good results have been out here. I have got a few seconds and few thirds and I won the Indonesian Open - a joint-sanctioned European and Asian Tour event."
Regarding his ace at the 144-yard 12th, his third hole, the 32-year-old said: "It was perfect yardage, no wind, and a perfect wedge straight down the flag."
Europe's Ryder Cup skipper Colin Montgomerie posted a one-under 69.