Former Ryder Cup star Ross Fisher continued his recent renaissance as he fired an opening 62 to join home favourites Hennie du Plessis and Tristen Strydom and Spaniard Nacho Elvira at the top of the leaderboard after day one of the 2022 MyGolfLife Open hosted by Pecanwood.
On a low-scoring day at Pecanwood Golf and Country Club when 126 players were under par, the leading quartet sat at ten under, a shot clear of another Spaniard in Pablo Larrazábal and two ahead of South Africans JC Ritchie and Richard Sterne and German Nicolai von Dellingshausen.
Englishman Fisher was the only player to get to 11 under when he birdied the seventh but he gave the shot straight back to slip back into a tie.
The 41-year-old is without full playing privileges on the DP World Tour for the first time since coming through the Qualifying School in 2005, a 16-year spell that saw him win five DP World Tour titles, represent Europe in 2010 at the Ryder Cup and break the course record at St Andrews.
A runner-up finish in his last start at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic has him in the top 20 on the DP World Tour Rankings in Partnership with Rolex and Fisher was glad to maintain his momentum.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "I played really, really solid.
"All in all, I drove the ball really, really nicely, if I wasn't hitting fairways I was barely five yards off the fairway.
"I chipped in for an eagle on my first hole. That’s a nice little eagle three to start the day.”
Elvira won his first DP World Tour title at last season's Cazoo Open supported by Gareth Bale and his bogey-free effort was powered by a run of seven birdies in a row from the tenth.
"I loved it," he said. "When I turned my back to 16 I was like, 'I can't believe this is finishing today'. I was having a lot of fun and on days like this you don't want it to finish. I'm very happy and very pleased with the way I played."
Pecanwood is Du Plessis' home course and the 25-year-old was happy with how he handled the advantages and pressure familiarity can bring in his own bogey-free effort.
"It was an incredible round for me," he said. "I hit all the fairways almost and gave myself a lot of opportunities. I'm thankful that a few putts went in as well.
"I know it's sometimes hard on a home course to expect a good score but the course is forgiving and I know the greens. If you give yourself a lot of opportunities you can shoot low on any course, it just makes it a little bit extra special that it's my home course."
Strydom arrived in Hartbeespoort fresh off a runner-up finish at last week's Mangaung Open on the European Challenge Tour and, like Du Plessis, was feeling comfortable on home soil.
"I played really nice tee-to-green and gave myself a ton of chances," he said. "I'm very familiar with the golf course, having lived here for a couple of years as a youngster so that helps.
It's a massive opportunity for us South African players. I had a good solid start to the season so hopefully I can build on that - Tristen Strydom
"I finished second last week that got me into this and I just said to myself keep going so it's a massive opportunity for us South African players. I had a good solid start to the season so hopefully I can build on that."
Du Plessis turned in 31 with birdies on the second, third, seventh, eighth and ninth and when he made it five gains in six holes as he picked up further shots on the tenth and 12th, he led on his own.
He then finished his round with a hat-trick of gains and led the rest of the early starters by two shots.
It looked for a long time in the afternoon that he would not be caught, certainly not by Elvira who reached the turn in 33 as he picked up shots on the first, fifth and seventh.
But that incredible run of seven birdies in a row from the tenth catapulted him up the leaderboard and Du Plessis had company at the top.
Fisher was next to get to double figures as he followed up a chip-in eagle on the par-five tenth with birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th, first, third, fourth and fifth.
And there was soon a four-way tie as, after a birdie-bogey start from the tenth, Strydom made five in a row and followed that with two more on the first and second before making a hat-trick from the fifth.
Another Fisher birdie on the par-five seventh had him in the solo lead but he found sand off the tee at the par-three next to surrender his only bogey of the day.
Larrazábal also dropped one shot in his 63, a feat matched by Von Dellingshausen in his 64, while Ritchie and Sterne were bogey-free.
There was then a group of 11 players at seven under, with 49 within five shots of the lead.