COLOGNE, Germany – Danny Willett and Rafa Cabrera-Bello shot 8-under 64s for the lead while local favorite Martin Kaymer endured a frustrating round on the opening day of the BMW International Open on Thursday.
Willett finished with his eighth birdie to match his Spanish playing partner's bogey-free round.
''We played good. It was one of them days. We rolled a few nice ones in,'' said Willett, who won the 2012 tournament on the same Gut Laerchenhof course.
''You can turn an average round into a great round quite quickly when you hole a few nice putts and that's all we seem to be doing.''
Cabrera-Bello said it was a pleasure to play with the Englishman.
''It's a really, really good way to start,'' Cabrera-Bello said. ''What I enjoyed most about the round was that I played steady. I didn't have a really high peak and I didn't have any lows.''
Kaymer, making his first competitive appearance since winning the U.S. Open, made five birdies but was let down by two bogeys and a double bogey in a 1-under 71.
''It was a tough day for me on the greens,'' said Kaymer, who was given a rousing reception despite the 7:40 a.m. tee off. ''It was very, very playable today. It was the best conditions you can get here, but I didn't make many putts, especially the last five holes. It was probably the worst I can do.''
There was a seven-way tie for third, with Argentina's Emiliano Grillo, Spain's Alvaro Quiros and Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey joining early leaders Anders Hansen of Denmark, Gary Stahl of France and Englishmen Andy Sullivan and Graham Storm on 6-under 66.
Ireland's Shane Lowry, France's Romain Wattel and Spaniards Nacho Elvira and Jorge Campillo were in a group at 5 under.
Irish Open winner Mikko Ilonen finished 4 under, while playing partner and 11-time European Tour winner Sergio Garcia was 1 under.
World No. 2 Henrik Stenson managed an eagle on the 13th hole and finished 4 under with another two birdies.