Victor Dubuisson fired an opening 68 to set the clubhouse target on day one of the Nedbank Golf Challenge hosted by Gary Player.
The Frenchman has historically been good towards the end of the season with two wins at the Turkish Airlines Open and three top fives at the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai on his CV and he continued that record at Gary Player Country Club.
He made five birdies and a bogey to get to four under but the seventh Rolex Series event of the season has brought an elite field to South Africa and Dubuisson had an impressive chasing pack behind him.
Home favourites Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen, defending champion Alex Noren, and fellow 2017 winners Graeme Storm, Julian Suri and Bernd Wiesberger were among those in the group a shot off the lead.
Dubuisson had birdies on the 13th, 14th and 18th with a dropped shot on the 16th as he turned in 34 but back-to-back gains on the first and second moved him to the summit.
Storm made an eagle on the second but gave the shots back on the next and when he bogeyed the fourth he was over par. He would start the back nine at one over but birdies on the tenth, 12th, 16th and 17th fired him up the leaderboard.
Swede Noren had eight holes to play after going out in the last group of the day and made a single birdie on the second before chipping in for an eagle on the tenth.
Oosthuizen had played one hole more and he delighted the home crowd with a 20-foot eagle on the second and made further gains on the sixth and tenth before dropping a shot on the 11th.
Grace bogeyed the third and fourth but made gains on the seventh, tenth and 13th before holing from the fringe on the next for an eagle.
Wiesberger made three birdies in a row from the tenth to get to three under after 12 holes and Scot Stephen Gallacher was also at that mark with six to play.
Scott Jamieson was another Scotsman one off the lead and he had one hole to play, as did Suri.
Japan's Hideto Tanihara completed the group at three under and he had two holes to complete on a congested leaderboard.