The 30-year-old from Worthing fired a brilliant 10-under par 62, the lowest round of his career, to beat the previous record by four shots. His stunning effort, with 10 birdies and no dropped shots on the tough Nick Faldo-designed course, gave him a comfortable cushion over the home favourite Alex Cejka, New Zealand's Greg Turner and Argentinian Jorge Berendt, who all posted 66s.
This performance confirmed the potential he displayed as a rookie on tour seven years ago which had the experts tipping him to be the next Nick Faldo. "I don't think I'm ever going to be the next Faldo or Langer as some people were predicting because I've lost too much time, but after being in the doldrums I've got no problems at all and that's such a nice thing to say after all the things I've been through," Evans said.
After a successful amateur career, with consecutive wins in the Brabazon and Lytham trophies, Evans seemed destined for glory and won almost pounds 150,000 in his first year on tour in 1992. But a persistent wrist injury halted his progress and even after surgery in 1994 he struggled to regain his form until deciding to start from scratch with a new coach, manager and set of clubs in 1997.
"I was in the doldrums for two years until making those changes and this is a result of two years' work rather than just one day," Evans added.
Less happy was Andrew Coltart, who was forced to withdraw after an opening 76. The 29-year-old Surrey-based Scot picked up a mysterious rib injury earlier in the week and, with the US Open next week, did not want to make it any worse.
The pre-tournament favourite Bernhard Langer could only manage a level- par 72 as he searched for an 11th title on home soil while another Ryder Cup player, the Italian Costantino Rocca, had a 69.
Justin Rose opened his career on the Challenge Tour in blistering style with a six-under-par 64 in the first round of the Diners Club Austrian Open in Millstatter See.
Rose, who has failed to make 20 cuts since turning professional after his fourth place at last year's Open at Royal Birkdale, carded six birdies and stayed bogey-free for the first time as a professional. It was also his lowest professional round and left him in a three-way tie for the lead with Neil Turley and Pascal Edmond.
n Britain's Laura Davies had a storming finish in torrential rain to stay in contention for a record third win at the Evian Masters. Sweden's Catrin Nilsmark birdied the final two holes for a 70 to take the halfway lead on 139. But Davies also made long putts on the 17th and 18th for a 72 and a share of second place on 141 with Lancashire's Lora Fairclough and Sweden's Charlotta Sorenstam.
Results, Digest, page 27