China's Jin Boyang and USA's Jason Brown complete the top three after Friday's first stage.
Double Olympic champion Hanyu Yuzuru made a stunning return to his PyeongChang 2018 routines by setting a new world record score in the men's short program at the ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships in Seoul.
The 25-year-old scored highly on the +5/-5 grade of execution (GOE) scale for all three of his jumping elements: a quadruple Salchow, quad toe-loop triple toe-loop combination, and a triple Axel.
It was an ethereal performance; the jumps looked effortless as he received 111.82 points from the judges, breaking his own record of 110.53 set at the 2018 Rostelecom Cup.
Hanyu had decided that his previous programs this season did not reflect his own character, thus opting to go back to his PyeongChang music.
Skating to Frederic Chopin's Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, and wearing a similar white-and-baby-blue gradient shirt to his previous outing in Korea, the Japanese appeared completely at ease with his program.
The fans in the crowd were waiting eagerly to see what he would produce, and greeted his opening quad Salchow with deafening screams.
He had said upon arrival that "currently I can skate my best to Seimei and Ballade No. 1", and so proved it here in the short.
The quad Salchow and quad toe, triple toe jumping passes both scored higher than 4 on GOE, while his triple Axel was awarded a 3.77 GOE. The only other skater to be awarded a GOE over 3 for a jump was Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games champion Kagiyama Yuma, whose opening quad toe scored 3.26.
His Total Elements Score was 63.42; higher than rival Nathan Chen's best of 63.13.
Hanyu's score put him a cool 16 points ahead of Jin Boyang, who totalled 95.83 points.
China's Jin had a quadruple Lutz, triple toe combination to open, which boosted his technical score due to a high base judging value, although he only just held on to the landing of the Lutz.
He followed that with a quadruple toe-loop and a triple Axel, although the latter jump was also marked down.
The Chinese has not been in great form this season despite a win at the Cup of China, but a strong second place here will go some way to giving him a confidence boost ahead of the World Championships in Montreal in March.
The American has no quadruple jumps in his short program and only one listed in his free skate, instead relying on his artistry to wow the judges.
He did so here, with three clean jumps (triple flip, triple Axel, triple Lutz-triple toe) and a high Program Components Score contributing to a total of 94.71.
Canada's Messing staked his claim to be his country's sole men's singles representative at the Worlds with a strong skate of his own.
Messing's 94.03 could have been even better, had his step sequence not been called a level three instead of the maximum level four.
And Kagiyama, fresh off the back of Youth Olympic gold in Lausanne, announced himself on the senior stage with his performance.
In his first major senior international competition, the 16-year-old looked unfazed and was visibly delighted as he smashed his own personal best short program score by nearly seven points.