Johannesburg - Toto Thimba Jnr was not afraid to tackle Houghton Golf Club on Tuesday and shot a superb 66 to lead the first round of the R100 000 season-opener of the Sunshine Big Easy Tour.
"I am confident with my game - I feel good, I feel strong and mentally I believe I can win any tournament," Thimba said.
At the 2011 tournament Callie Swart won with a five-under tally and only seven players finished below par, which stands as testimony to Thimba's putting, which earned him a one-stroke lead over Michael du Toit and Wynand Dingle ahead of the final 18 holes of the 36-hole tournament.
"The greens were very tricky today, but I had great birdie chances. I have been putting well for the past three weeks, so I'm feeling good," added Thimba.
"My game is back and if I keep playing the way I am at the moment I can win a tournament any time."
It was not all plain sailing for the 26-year-old from Mamelodi - after birdieing the first, he double-dropped at the second, yet recovered in style.
"I had a good start and made birdie on the first. I made a double (bogey) on the second, but then I eagled the third, and from there I was cruising," he said.
He was quietly confident as he reminisced over his solid opening round.
"My only mistake was on two. After that I was hitting driver to the fairway and my second kept finding the green, and from there I was two-putting, so I'm glad about shooting that round today, 66."
The Silver Lakes Country Club professional was determined to win this tournament, and added: "I'm playing very well and I think I can go low again tomorrow. The rest will be history."
Du Toit was very pleased just to shoot below par.
"It's a bit surprising for me, because I haven't been playing that well for a while now," said Du Toit.
"The putter just started behaving again.
"The greens are rolling fantastically - like a billiard table - but they're very tricky to read. If you get the right line and pace then you can roll plenty in."
He also felt that confidence was the key to success.
"Once you roll in a few putts, you feel like you can hole anything," added Du Toit.
"Once you hit a few good drives, you feel like you can't miss a fairway. It's all confidence, and for a while now my confidence has been down, so I'm really happy to play below par again.
"Tomorrow I am going to go for it and if I can get a few more birdies in then it's a bonus."
Dingle started on the back stretch and made an immediate birdie to get things rolling. He turned at two-under. He catapulted into contention with an eagle at the fifth and played regulation golf until signing for 67.
The surprise rounds of the day came from amateurs Musiwalo Nethunzwi and Brandon Stone, who each took full advantage of their special invitations to the event and shot 68.
The pair finished the first round tied fourth and will head for the final 18 just two strokes off the pace.
Sharing sixth at three-under are Chris Williams, Tyrone Ryan, Teboho Sefatsa and Martin du Toit.
66 Toto Thimba (Jnr)
67 Michael du Toit, Wynand Dingle
68 Musiwalo Nethunzwi (AMA), Brandon Stone (AMA)
69 Chris Williams, Tyrone Ryan, Teboho Sefatsa, Martin du Toit
70 Anthony Michael, Vickesh Singh, Coenie Stoop, Ross Wellington, Callie Swart, Morne Buys, Ryan Thompson, Ruan de Smidt
71 David Ryan, Drikus van der Walt, Divan Gerber, Johan Bekker, Mark Williams, Brett Liddle, Thabo Maseko, Ryan Hood
72 Henk Alberts, Makgetha Mazibuko, Garry Hill, Thanda Mavundla, Alpheus Kelapile, Thomas Lovett
73 Brendan de Lange, Patrick Spindler, Zwelakhe Dube, Louis Moolman, Conway Kunneke (AMA), Micky Hough (ZIM), Jake Redman, Yubin Jung
74 Michael Hollick, Steven Ferreira, Danie van Tonder, Willie Steyn, Lean Boezaart, Riekus Nortje, Graham van der Merwe, Andre van Zyl, Thabang Simon, Adrian Ford
75 Irvin Mazibuko, Pieter Moolman, Grant Veenstra
76 Walter Els, Attie Schwartzel, Derick Petersen, PG van Zyl, Ashley Roestoff, Trevor Mahoney, Richard Kaplan, Louis Calitz, Daniel Hammond, Derik Ferreira, Mark Fensham
77 Heinrich Bruiners, Langley Perrins, Roberto Lupini, Michael McGrady, Coenie Bester, Stuart Smith (BOT), Jared Harvey, Zuko Sangqu, Dean Burmester, Mikhail Tewary, Dayne Moore (ZAM), Francois Coetzee, Jeff Inglis (ENG)
78 Rocky Tlhabanyane, Cameron Esau, Wandile Gininda, Neo Thubisi
79 John Bele, Nathan Waghorn
80 Michael Dreyer
82 Albert Tsai, Juan Langeveld
83 Matthew Rottanburg, Steven van Heerden, Kenneth Dube, Marks Bodibe
84 Elvis Sithebe
85 SV Nhlapho, Sammy Daniels
RTD Nic Henning
DSQ Warren Holland