A trio of Englishmen - Simon Dyson, Simon Wakefield and Ross Fisher - each posted rounds of 5-under-par 67. They share second place with Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Peter Hanson and Jose-Filipe Lima.
Cevaer got his round going by holing out for birdie from a greenside bunker on the par-4 third. He came right back with a birdie on No. 4.
The 36-year-old parred his next two holes before moving to 3 under with a birdie on the par-4 seventh.
Cevaer dropped in his next birdie putt at the 10th. The three-time winner on the European Tour parred three in a row, then converted a birdie try on the 14th. Cevaer sank his final birdie on the 17th and parred the last to cap a bogey-free round.
'One of the keys for me today was my fine bunker play because I got it up and down four times,' Cevaer said. 'I felt really comfortable with the bunkers. It's a beautiful course. I am not a long hitter, but have posted a good score so it is more about accurate iron play and finding the right distances.'
Dyson played the back nine first on Thursday and picked up birdies on the 11th and 14th. He gave one stroke back to par with a bogey at the 18th. Dyson atoned for that error with a birdie on the second, then ran off three straight birdies from No. 5 to share second place.
Fisher also played the back nine first. He sank back-to-back birdies from the 11th, then moved to 3 under with a birdie on the 15th. Fisher, like Dyson, bogeyed 18, but then notched three birdies in a four-hole span from the fourth to get to minus-5.
Wakefield birdied four of the first six holes to get off to a hot start. However, he posted just two more birdies to go with a bogey the rest of the way to share second.
Fernandez-Castano birdied three in a row from the second to open his round. He tripped to a bogey on seven, but recovered that stroke as he birdied the ninth. The Spaniard faltered to another bogey at the 11th, but posted three birdies in a four-hole stretch from the 14th to end at minus-5.
Hanson opened with back-to-back bogeys from the 10th, but then birdied four of the next five to get to minus-2. The Swede drained consecutive birdies from the first, but stumbled to another bogey on No. 3. Hanson got that stroke back with a birdie on the fifth and made it two in a row with a birdie on six.
'It was a slow start, but I managed to turn it around,' said Hanson. 'I think I stayed patient.'
Rahil Gangjee, Jarrod Lyle, David Lynn and Miles Tunnicliff share eighth place at 4-under-par 68. Six more players are one stroke back at minus-3.
Paul Casey, who won this crown in November, posted a 1-under-par 71 and is tied for 27th.