From The European Tour
Defending champion Willett was playing alongside Stenson and fired a 67 to sit a shot behind the 39 year old and Jaco Van Zyl at the top of the leaderboard.
But that does not tell the full story, with the 2013 Race to Dubai champion admitting his chances of playing earlier in the week had been just five per cent due to a bout of flu.
He revealed his “legs were like jelly” towards the end of his opening round and Willett believes Stenson will take some beating if he can maintain that sort of form when not fully fit.
“I don’t think he can be ill!” he joked. “He played brilliantly. He didn’t miss many shots. I think he got very tired towards the end there but he played tremendous golf.
The Englishman was bogey-free in his own round and, despite admitting to some nerves as he got his season under way, he was happy with his effort.
“It was really solid,” he said. “I played really well in the pro-am on Tuesday and played another seven holes in practice yesterday on my own trying to get a feel for the golf course again and everything is in good shape.
“Because it’s at the same golf course, people expect you to play well again, but everyone knows how fickle this game can be. The course does set up well for me but that doesn’t mean you’re going to shoot 67 every time you play it. Visually it does make things easier, though.
“I played well in the Final Series, just didn’t quite get it done. I had a couple of days off and then tried to get the good feelings going again and it’s been nice. I played well in practice, but it was good to get the first round under my belt. There were a few nerves, so I couldn’t be happier with my first round score.”