Thongchai Jaidee (Getty Images)
Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee set a superb pace at the start of the Volvo Golf Champions at windy Durban Country Club.
The former paratrooper birdied six of the first ten holes to lead Scot Richie Ramsay and Northern Ireland's Michael Hoey by two.
The event has a field of only 33 made up of last year's European Tour winners, previous holders of the title and those with ten or more Tour victories to their name.
Jaidee qualified with victory in the ISPS Handa Wales Open at The Celtic Manor Resort last June, while Ramsay won the Omega European Masters in September and former British Amateur Champion Hoey the Trophée Hassan II in Morocco ten months ago.
Open Champion Ernie Els was last out alongside Ryder Cup player Nicolas Colsaerts and birdied the first three holes - all downwind - while the Belgian had a double bogey at the 188 yard second.
Colin Montgomerie and Paul Lawrie were paired and had an unusual hold-up on the opening green. The flagstick had been jammed into the hole and repair work was needed before they could continue.
Montgomerie, 50 this June, eagled the long third, but also had four bogeys in the first six to stand two over.
Jaidee went to seven under with a two at the 170 yard 15th - the hole with a £32,000 excavator as a prize for a hole-in-one - and by then held a five-stroke lead.
Hoey stood four under with three to play but double-bogeyed the 16th, while Ramsay fell back to the same two-under position with bogeys at the 11th and 12th.
Els missed the green on the short fourth and compounded the error by three-putting for a double bogey, but he came back with another birdie two holes later and was in a tie for second with Hoey, Ramsay, England's Danny Willett and Robert Rock and Indian Jeev Milkha Singh.