The 22-year-old Spaniard went around the El Cortijo Club de Campo in Gran Canaria Thursday without a bogey. He trails Englands David Gilford and Swedens Soren Hansen, who shot matching 66s.
Jaime Spence, Greg Owen and Marcel Siem are tied with Garcia at minus-5.
Robert Karlsson opened his title defense with an even-par 72. Retief Goosen shot 73, while three-time champion Seve Ballesteros carded a 75.
Garcia, who made his professional debut at this event in 1999, spent the early part of the week in his home country defending his decision not play in last weeks Seve Trophy, an unofficial team match-play competition contested this year in Ireland. Instead, the two-tour player competed in the PGA Tours WorldCom Classic.
Ballesteros, the captain of the Continental Europe team, was displeased with his protgs decision, accusing Garcia of wanting an appearance fee. Ballesteros team lost to the Colin Montgomerie-captained Great Britain & Ireland.
The disagreement didnt seem to affect Garcias play Thursday. The worlds No. 5-ranked player birdied the second and third holes, but struggled with his putter, birdieing only three more holes the remainder of the day.
It was a very comfortable 67, he said. I played extremely well and hit a lot of great shots. Unfortunately, I missed about four putts I should have made. That made the round a little disappointing, but apart from that, everything else was great. My game was right on target and Im looking forward to the rest of the week.
Gilford is trying to avenge a playoff loss two weeks ago at the Algarve Open de Portugal. The 36-year-old made seven birdies and one bogey in a first round that was highlighted by a 2-iron to eight feet for a birdie-3 on the 475-yard 18th.
I played well and I didnt really do anything wrong, Gilford said. I could have come out feeling disappointed after losing in the playoff in Portugal to Carl (Pettersson) but I was pretty pleased, really.
It gave me confidence above all else.
Full-field scores from the Canarias Open de Espana