Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez and Australia's Nick O'Hern are knotted in second place at 6-under-par 66. Shiv Kapur is alone in fourth place at 5-under- par 67.
Goosen, the two-time U.S. Open champion, traded a birdie and a bogey on the second and third holes. He added birdies at the fifth, seventh and ninth holes to make the turn at 3 under par.
Things looked great for Goosen after the midway point. He recorded three consecutive birdies from the 11th hole and his mind started to wander. At this event, if a player breaks Mark Pilkington's course record of 63, that player drives off with a BMW.
'I thought there was a pretty good chance of getting myself to 10 under here and maybe driving home, but it's a long way to drive,' said the South African Goosen. 'But when I missed birdies on the 14th and 15th I was just looking to shoot as low as I could.'
At the 307-yard, par-4 16th, Goosen reached the green with his tee ball. He two-putted for a birdie from 25 feet to move one clear of the duo at 6 under par.
Goosen is working with a coach again for the first time in a decade. He has slipped to eighth in the World Rankings, but a tie for fifth last week in Abu Dhabi, coupled with Thursday's strong performance gives the U.S. Open champion hope.
'My game is not quite as good as it should be,' acknowledged Goosen. 'Hopefully this year I can start getting some good tournaments under the belt again and get myself back into that top three or so in the World Rankings.'
Jimenez, who teed off on the second nine, posted two birdies early at the 12th and 13th. His highlight of the first round was a long eagle putt from the fringe at the 16th.
On his second nine, Jimenez birdied the first and fourth holes to get into the clubhouse at minus-6.
'The week has just begun and I'll give it my best to be up there at the top but I am not the only one that is playing here,' said the 43 year-old European Ryder Cupper. 'There are too many great players here and you never know what is going to happen.'
The left-handed O'Hern parred his first six holes, but closed his front nine in style with three consecutive birdies. Once again, O'Hern parred six in a row until a birdie at the 16th.
O'Hern polished off his round with a 60-foot eagle putt at the par-5 closing hole.
'I had never even gone for the last in two before but after hitting a good drive and being downwind I had 255 meters to the hole, I just couldn't help myself,' admitted O'Hern, referring to his play at the last. 'Let's have a crack at it and it all worked out in the end. The putt was about 60 feet. It was tricky putting through the shadows and had it not hit the hole it would have gone about 10 feet past.'
Defending champion Henrik Stenson opened his title defense with a 4-under- par 68. He is tied for fifth place with Nick Dougherty, Richard Green and Edward Michaels.
Three-time major winner Ernie Els, Yasin Ali, Ariel Canete, Andrew Coltart, Wen-Chong Liang, Mardan Mamat, Chinarat Phadungsil, Jeev Milkha Singh, Jong Yul Suk and 1999 British Open winner Paul Lawrie share ninth place at minus-3.
The Golf Channel will have tape-delayed coverage of all four rounds beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET each day.