The former European Tour rookie of the year played the opening nine holes of the wetlands course in a bogey free five under par to top the leaderboard ahead of Chinese Number One Liang Wen-chong and Australia's Steven Bowditch.
Liang, who won last month's Luxehills Chengdu Open, started on the back nine and had rapidly progressed to five under through eight until shipping a solitary bogey to slip back alongside Bowditch.
Former Asian Number One Liang is bidding to become only the third Chinese winner of the tournament following Cheng Jun in 1997 and Zhang Lian-wei in 2003.
Korea's Y E Yang continued his form from last week's eighth placed finish at the Masters Tournament as the 2009 US PGA Championship winner reached the turn in three under par after starting out in light early morning rain on the unique Gary Player designed course.
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