Johannesburg local Neil Schietekat fired the best professional round of his career to take the first round lead at the Joburg Open with a sensational nine under par 62.
The South African, who has yet to win on the Sunshine Tour where he plays most of his golf, picked up nine birdies without dropping a shot as he beat the previous tournament lowest round by one.
That was enough for a one stroke lead over last week’s Africa Open winner Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke, Jbe’ Kruger and English pair David Lynn and Simon Khan.
All of the leaders played their opening round on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, with English duo Danny Willett and Barry Lane’s 65s the best score on offer on the longer East Course.
Players alternate between the two courses over the first two rounds before the tournament moves to the East Course for the weekend.
Schietekat, the World Number 1,074, revealed that some improvements made to his game last year had finally paid dividends.
“It’s all about putting, and I actually changed my putting grip just before the Alfred Dunhill Championship and it’s started to pay off now,” he said.
“When I teed off today, I thought that we were on the easier course, the West course, and I knew that around five or six under would be a good one, and then I made a lot of putts. I hit the ball pretty solid, and I putted really well.”
Clarke, 44, collected five birdies in an outward 31 and picked up three more shots coming home.
The last time he shot lower was his European Tour record-equalling 60 in the 1999 European Open, much closer to home at The K Club near Dublin.
“I hit it close a lot of times, and the only putt I really holed was on 17 from about 20 feet,” said Clarke of his round.
Schwartzel had a superb seven birdies in a row around the turn to be eight under after 11, but any thoughts of a 59 went when he double bogeyed the 450 yard 12th after three-putting from just a few feet.
But The Race to Dubai leader, 51st in the World Rankings, came back with twos on the 206 yard 13th and 174 yard 16th.
Lane, 50 in June, is second to Sam Torrance in making the most appearances on The European Tour and his 649th event began with a bogey.
But it was to prove his only mistake. With wife Camilla again acting as his caddie, he birdied five of the next eight and made further gains on the 14th and 18th.