Over the first 18 holes Thursday, Gary Evans and David Howell of England and Martin Erlandsson of Sweden all shot 5-under 67 to take a one-shot lead over a group of five players that included England's Luke Donald and Peter Hedblom of Sweden.
That group shot 4-under 68.
Another 10 players shot 3-under 70.
Howell won the tournament by one stroke last year after shooting a 7-under 65 in the final round.
"Hopefully that is going to be the turning point now," Howell said. "The poor run I've had (recently) came as a bit of a shock."
Two-time PGA major tournament winner John Daly of the United States had to withdraw before the event began because he was hospitalized with a stomach virus.
Daly won this event in 2001.