Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee overcame strong winds on the opening morning of the Volvo Golf Champions to establish an early lead at Durban Country Club.
The ISPS Handa Wales Open winner birdied the second, third and fifth to move one in front of South African Darren Fichardt, who turned in 34, and two ahead of a group which included the returning Retief Goosen, Scot Richie Ramsay and Ireland's Shane Lowry.
Two-time US Open Champion Goosen was back playing five months after undergoing disc replacement surgery in his back, had to wait until only the second hole for his first birdie.
The 43 year old South African, who made a late decision that he was ready to return, sank a 15 foot putt.
Fichardt was playing on his own at the head of a 33-strong field drawn from last year's European Tour winners, previous champions at the event and those with ten or more Tour titles.
Jaidee picked up further shots at the seventh and eighth. At five under he was two ahead of Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey, who finished the outward half with a hat-trick of birdies.
Fichardt, on the other hand, fell back to two over with a quadruple bogey eight at the 480 yard upwind 11th.
Scots Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie, paired together, had an unusual hold-up on the opening green. The flagstick had jammed into the hole and repair work had to be carried out before they could continue.
Montgomerie, who shot a nine under 63 in much calmer conditions in the Wednesday pro-am, then bogeyed the short second, but followed that with an eagle three.