Dimitrios Papadatos began his last chance of 2018 to secure a European Tour card with an impressive 67 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
The Australian entered the Challenge Tour's season ending Ras Al Khaimah Challenge Tour Grand Final with a chance of finishing the campaign in the all-important top 15 but damaged a club and then played with it, leading to a disqualification.
He had another chance to earn his playing privileges at the Australian PGA Championship via the PGA Tour of Australasia Order of Merit but again missed out and is now looking for an all important victory to secure a place on Tour.
His bogey-free round set the early pace at Leopard Creek Country Club and with leader Oliver Bekker just one shot ahead of him heading into round two, the 27 year old was happy with his day's work.
“It was definitely tricky out there today,” he said. “The wind was quite strong, a lot stronger than the forecast. The greens were quite firm and fast so yes, I was very happy with that round.
“I didn’t realise I was bogey-free but I am pretty happy to keep the scorecard free of the bogeys. Trying to get a bit of form and after the missed cut last week, it was nice to turn things around.”
Raphaël Jacquelin was a shot behind Papadatos as he made his first appearance at Leopard Creek in his 599th European Tour event.
The Frenchman needed to use his money-list exemption to play on Tour last season but retained his card and a 68 containing six birdies and two bogeys continued an encouraging start to the new campaign.
“It’s my first time and it’s a good round to start,” he said. “I played solidly, especially on the back nine. It was not easy this morning, a lot of wind, but I managed to stay patient and to make some birdies.
“I don’t know why I've never played because the place is unbelievable. I played Hong Kong, Mauritius and then I took a week off in the Kruger Park with my wife. Had a bit of a rest then I play this one so it suits my schedule a bit better than the other years.”
Leopard Creek has undergone extensive changes since Brandon Stone won this event two years ago but the defending champion is still very much in love with the layout.
The home favourite made four birdies and a single bogey as he got his unconventional defence under way, with a change in the grass and some of the tee-positions in effect since he was last here.
“The wind is quite tricky out there and gusting at times,” he said. “Three under par is a great score to start this year’s event and hopefully we can just build on that.
“I’ve never said I like this course - I love it out here. This is the holy grail of golf for me. Mr (Johann) Rupert (owner) has made some fantastic changes that have made me love the golf course even more.
“The game really feels like it’s coming along and I’m hitting the ball incredibly well.”