The Australian duo Scott Gardiner and Jarrod Moseley each carded rounds of 6-under-par 66. That pair shares third place with American Edward Loar and Englishman Ian Poulter.
Bjorn's front nine at Alpine Golf and Country Club was nearly as hot as the 90-plus-degree heat players battled throughout the day. The Dane opened with a birdie at the first and followed with another at No. 3.
The seven-time winner on the European Tour birdied the par-5 fifth before coming back with a kick-in eagle at the par-5 seventh to get to 5-under. Bjorn wrapped a pair of birdies around the turn, but stumbled to his lone bogey of the day at the par-4 12th to fall back to minus-6.
'Very rarely do I play well after a long break,' said Bjorn, who is playing his first event of the 2004 season. 'It normally takes me a little while to get into it but this is only round one. We've got three rounds to go and I will make my judgement on Sunday, not Thursday.'
The two-time Ryder Cup performer responded in fine fashion as he converted back-to-back birdies from the 14th to move into the lead. He parred the final three holes to maintain his one-shot cushion.
'At the end I hit some loose shots and, at this early stage of the year, it was a case of just getting into the clubhouse and being happy,' Bjorn said. 'It's hard to come out having just hit balls on the range but I did a lot of good work with Pete Cowen in Dubai and this is a wonderful start.'
Faldo, who won this event in 1990 and 1993, was in one of the first groups to tee off the 10th tee Thursday morning. He did not get off to a good start though as he dropped a shot at the par-4 11th.
He steadied himself with birdies at the 14th and 17th to make the turn at minus-1. Faldo caught fire quickly on the front side.
He birdied the par-4 second and made it two straight with a birdie at the next. Faldo was not done there. He converted consecutive birdies from the fourth to cap a run of four straight birdies that got him to 5-under.
Faldo took the early lead as he closed his round with back-to-back birdies from the seventh to move to minus-7.
'This is great. I just played aggressively and rushed in the putts. I was really pleased,' said Faldo, a six-time major winner. 'I kept myself focused on every single hole. The last two weeks I played nine holes every afternoon. That's been good because I've been playing with some friends who are fairly competitive.'
Marcus Fraser and Anders Hansen, who each own one European Tour victory, posted rounds of 5-under-par 67. They share seventh place with Marten Olander, David Smail and Thongchai Jaidee.
British Open champion Ben Curtis is one stroke further back at 4-under-par 69. He is joined there by David Lynn, Prom Meesawat, Thawom Wiratchant, Simon Yates, Lian-Wei Zhang, Mike Cunning, Martin Doyle and Soren Kjeldsen.
Ernie Els, the 2003 champion, carded six birdies and four bogeys en route to a round of 2-under-par 70.