Johannes Veerman continued his fine start to his first full European Tour season as he came home in 29 on the Bushwillow Course to lead the way on day one of the South African Open hosted by the City of Johannesburg.
The American has two top tens in three events on the 2020 Race to Dubai since coming through the Qualifying School - where he was 144th after two rounds but then went 67-67-66-66 to earn hs playing privileges.
A bogey free 62 meant there was no early stumble at Randpark Golf Club and moved Veerman to nine under, a shot clear of Italy's Nino Bertasio.
That matched the effort last season of Louis Oosthuizen, who also opened with a nine under round and went on to lift the trophy at his home open for the first time.
England's Sam Horsfield and local favourite Toto Thimba Jnr were at seven under, a shot clear of Oosthuizen, amateur Jayden Trey Schaper, Dane Rasmus Højgaard, Finn Tapio Pulkkanen and Australian David Micheluzzi - the only of the leading players to play the Firethorn Course.
Veerman birdied the second and fifth but jumped into a share of the lead with a hat-trick of gains from the tenth.
He then burst clear of the field with a four birdie finish including a lovely chip and run on the 17th and an excellent approach to the last - which would have seen him officially equal the course record had preferred lies not been in place.
Bertasio birdied the first, third, fourth, sixth, eighth, 12th and 13th before an eagle from ten feet on the 17th handed him a share of the lead.
A poor tee shot on the 18th then saw him close with a bogey.
Horsfield and Thimba were playing together and the South African dropped a single shot in his round, while Horsfield had a roller coaster with ten birdies and three bogeys.
Oosthuizen was bogey free in a round that saw him miss several good birdie chances on the back nine, while AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open champion Højgaard dropped a single shot.
Schaper, 18, made an eagle on the par four fifth to go with six birdies and two bogeys, while Pulkkanen came home in 30 with a four birdie finish.
Micheluzzi bogeyed the second but then added birdies on the third, fourth, sixth, ninth, tenth, 17th and 18th on the tougher layout.