A birdie on the last moved Justin Walters to the top of a congested leaderboard as he took a one-shot lead after the first round of the Joburg Open.
The South African fired a seven under par 65 on the tougher East Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club to move ahead but he had a chasing pack of six hot on his heels.
Swedes Michael Jonzon and Johan Carlsson and South African Haydn Porteous signed for 66s on the East Course, while English duo David Howell and Anthony Wall and Zimbabwean Mark Williams carded 65s on the par 71 West layout.
A field of 210, the biggest of the season, had gathered in Gauteng with three places at The Open Championship available to non-exempt players who finish in the top ten.
And with only five players - including Howell - in the field currently exempt, this week presents a golden opportunity to get to Royal Troon in July.
Walters had been in a tie for the lead at six under as he stood on the 18th tee and when he put his second shot into a bunker on the par five, it looked unlikely he would jump out of the pack.
But the 35 year old, who regained his card at Qualifying School last year after losing it in 2014, played out to eight feet and rolled in a birdie to edge his nose in front.
I'm able to take advantage of the par fives. I tend to do that regularly somehow and hopefully I can continue to do that. I generally build it around the par fives, and if I can play those well and sprinkle a few in here and there around that, then I'm generally quite happy - Justin Walters
"I have a lot of good memories here. And having qualified for the Open here two years ago, I really enjoy playing here, I enjoy playing in Joburg, and I just kind of feel at home somewhat.
"Every time you come here, you build new memories and you have more to draw on when you're kind of in the same position.
"Historically this golf course is always quite tight. Both courses, if you play well offer a lot of birdies and generally, out of a 200-man field, you're going to 30 or 40 guys that are going to play a good round of golf.
"It's really hard to separate yourself on these two courses, so I expect more of the same over the week."
He had begun with a bogey on the first but gave the shot back on the third before following that with another birdie. An eagle on the sixth and birdie on the seventh saw him turn in 33 and he made further gains on the tenth and 14th before his big finish.
Williams had set the early target after arriving off the back of a top ten at The BMW SA Open hosted by City of Ekurhuleni last week, where Walters had finished in a tie for fourth.
He looked in danger of going seriously low as an eagle on the second and birdies on the third, fifth and sixth had him five under through six holes. A double bogey followed to halt his progress but after a run of seven pars he birdied the 15th, 16th and 18th, the latter after nearly holing his approach for eagle.
Jonzon does not currently have his card and was the last man to make it into the tournament but has two European Tour victories at the 1997 Portuguese Masters and the 2009 CASTELLÓ MASTERS Costa Azahar.
The 43 year old parred his first five holes but eagled the sixth before a birdie on the eighth saw him turn in 34. Another birdie followed on the tenth and, although he dropped a shot on the 12th, he made gains on the 15th, 16th and 18th.
Howell and Wall were both unblemished in their efforts as they carded an eagle and four birdies each.
Howell birdied the second, fifth, sixth and 14th with an eagle on the next while Wall made single gains on the sixth, 11th,12th and 15th with an eagle on the ninth.
Porteous began his round in brilliant fashion with an eagle on the first and then followed that with birdies on the third, eighth, 14th and 17th.
Carlsson was the only man in the top two positions without an eagle on his card and had a single bogey on the second to go with birdies on the first, third, fourth, sixth, eighth, tenth and 17th.
There was then a group of eight players on five under, including last week's runner-up Christiaan Bezuidenhout, who had a single bogey in his 67 on the East Course.
Fellow South African Jean Hugo, Chile's Felipe Aguilar and Englishman Ross McGowan, who had a hole in one at the fifth courtesy of a 179 yard eight iron, also went round the East layout in 67 blows.
Welshman Rhys Davies, the 2010 Trophée Hassan II champion who regained his card after finishing eighth on The Challenge Tour, fired a 66 on the West Course along with countryman Stuart Manley, South African Jacques Blaauw and German Marcel Siem.
Ernie Els, making his debut on at the Joburg Open, was one under after a 70 on the West Course with playing partner Brandon Stone, who won last week at Glendower Golf Club, a shot ahead.