Nisbet fired a bogey-free 9-under par round of 63 on The Hills course to be part of a three-way tie at the top with Japan’s Tatsuya Kodai and little-known American Jarin Todd who carded a 62 on the par-71 Millbrook Resort course.
118 players broke par on Thursday including 40 players at 5 under or better.
Nisbet, Kodai and Todd are one shot clear of a trio of Australians; Andrew Dodt and Andrew Martin opened with morning rounds of 64 at The Hills and Travis Smyth fired a 63 at Millbrook to also be at 8 under.
Birdies at the 3rd, 7th and 8th helped Nisbet make the turn at 3 under and he caught fire on his closing nine with six more birdies including three in a row from the 15th to the 17th.
“It was a great start; played with a couple of guys from Texas and they were wonderful playing partners in the pro-am format that we’ve got here,” Nisbet told Bruce Young after his round.
“Kept the card clean, no bogeys so a little bit of a bonus out there.”
Nisbet has enjoyed a revival of form in recent months, following a T6 result at last year’s NSW Open with top-20 finishes at last year’s Australian PGA, the Queensland PGA a fortnight ago and was T11th at last week’s NZ PGA.
“I finished last year really strong,” said Nisbet, who added, “a couple of months off over Christmas just to re-evaluate things and see where the game is and what we need to do and the first few events have been strong.”
“I’m playing quite aggressively but I’ve been hitting the ball really well which gives me that opportunity to do it.”
Kodai was also bogey-free in his 63 at The Hills while Todd began his round at Millbrook's 10th hole and moved to 8 under after 13 holes but was unable to separate himself, adding a final birdie for the day on the par-3 7th.
Still searching for his first professional victory, Todd took advantage of calm afternoon conditions to give himself a golden opportunity this week to lift his current world ranking of 717.
“It’s as easy as it’s going to get pretty much,” said Todd, who will move to The Hills course tomorrow.
“I really liked [The Hills] when I played it on Tuesday so I’m looking forward to it.”
Victorian Terry Pilkadaris, New Zealander Harry Bateman, Scotland’s Simon Yates and South Korean Soon Sang Hong share 7th at 7 under.
17 players are at 6 under including reigning Australian Open champion Cameron Davis, Peter Lonard, Rhein Gibson, New Zealander Josh Geary and American Paul Peterson.
Defending champion Michael Hendry opened with a 2-under 70 at The Hills to share 86th position.
STEPH NA'S TRUSTED PUTTING DRILL
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