Scotland’s Alastair Forsyth carded a seven-under 64 on the West Course to share the first-round lead at the European Tour’s Joburg Open on Thursday with Italian Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari and home hope Justin Walters.
Also on seven-under after a 65, but on the par-72 East Course, was another Scot, Craig Lee.
The field is split between the East and West courses for the opening two rounds, before all the action moves to the East Course for the final two days.
Forsyth, a two-time European Tour winner who has had to go back to Qualifying School, needed just 30 shots to reach the turn.
“The front nine was probably as good as I’ve played in a long time,” Forsyth said. “I seemed to do everything right on the front nine, but I struggled a little on the back, where I ended up between clubs a few times. No dropped shots and seven birdies, so I’m never going to complain with that.”
The 32-year-old Molinari has been impeded by a string of fitness issues since making his Ryder Cup debut alongside brother Francesco at Celtic Manor Resort in 2010.
Having finished tied for ninth in Dubai last weekend, the former US Amateur Champion was once again in fine form.
Three places at The Open in July are on offer to the best-placed players in the top 10 not already exempt, with all of the leading trio yet to secure an invite to Royal Liverpool.
Lee admitted that the added incentive of a major debut was spurring him on.
“It’s really hard to figure out where you are in the field with two golf courses, and with the East being slightly tougher I feel like I’m in a good position,” Lee said. “If we can keep the same level of golf then we might be able to separate ourselves from the bunch. You don’t really change your strategy, but it’s a great reward for three lucky guys who’ll get a chance to play in The Open.”
Walters is also seeking a maiden major appearance — but may elect not to go to Hoylake even if he qualifies because his girlfriend is due to give birth that week.