Behind him sit some of the best players in the field.
Retief Goosen, Henrik Stenson and Nick Dougherty shot 6-under 66 and are tied for second place at Abu Dhabi Golf Club -- all having posted bogey-free rounds, but none matching the leader's performance.
One week after missing the cut in South Africa, Archer collected 10 birdies with just one bogey and strung together three consecutive birdies twice during the round.
Archer's 63 was one shot off the 18-hole tournament record set by Stenson in the third round last year, and his second-best score ever on the European Tour.
He made a name for himself with his best score.
Last year, Archer shot a 9-under 60 in the first round of the Wales Open, missing a 6-foot putt at the last hole for golf's magical milestone. It was his only other 18-hole lead on the European Tour (he finished fifth).
'When I qualified for the U.S. Open last year, a lot of people in the crowd called me Mr. 60,' Archer recalled. 'When I went to South Africa I met a few people who would hear my name and say, 'Oh, 60, I watched that.''
Though it came on a par-69 course, Archer's brush with history allows him to put rounds like the one he had Thursday into perspective.
'I came really close, yet in the papers the next day it was as if I had done something wrong,' Archer said. 'I couldn't get my head round that. I just tried to take the positives from it.'
If Goosen had struck the ball any better Thursday, he might be right there alongside Archer. The South African's putting was in order -- he needed just 21 -- but little else seemed to be working.
'I had a month without any golf, apart from the odd round, and the swing doesn't feel settled,' Goosen admitted. 'But hopefully the rust will fall away over the weekend.'
Stenson, who parlayed his 62 into a second place finish behind Chris DiMarco last year, opened with six birdies Thursday. But his round was almost over before it began when he collided with a truck on the way to the course.
'I scratched my car and ended up in the sand off the road,' said Stenson, who only arrived 45 minutes before his tee time. 'The guy didn't speak English...and I had to leave the scene without waiting for the police. I didn't have many swings on the range, so 66 was a good start after everything that happened.'
Dougherty, playing in a threesome with Archer, was surprised to find himself so far back after a flawless round.
'I didn't expect to be three shots behind one of my playing partners after that,' Dougherty said. 'He's a great guy with a really solid game, and you wonder where he's been up until now. You watch him play and it's top drawer stuff. He's as good as any of the other guys.'
Paul Lawrie, Richard Green and Gary Emerson are tied for fifth place at 5-under 67 -- one shot ahead of 10 players who are knotted at 68.
DiMarco began his title defense with a 3-under 69 and shares 18th place with seven others.