Pretoria - Louis de Jager cruised around Pretoria Country Club in seven-under-par 64 on Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Tshwane Open.
He made seven birdies and didn't drop a single shot on his way to that single-shot edge over Julian Suri of the United States, South Africa's Thomas Aiken and Chile's Felipe Aguilar, with a further shot separating him from South Africans Shaun Norris and Combrinck Smit and American Patrick Newcomb.
"It is a very nice start," said De Jager. "It is nice to go off in the morning and then post a score like that, you know, so I am very pleased with that. I started off nicely on the 10th for my front nine and then I was a bit slow, just really steady, and on the front - my back nine - and then I finished birdie-birdie, so finished off with the cherry on the cake."
He also finished his opening nine off impressively, with three birdies in a row, and took advantage of the morning conditions as well as some softness on the greens after some rains the afternoon before the tournament started.
"The course is a bit easier than the previous years, because it is a bit softer and the greens are holding much better, but still the rough is up, you know, you’ve got to hit it straight and that definitely helps," said De Jager.
De Jager's best result in a co-sanctioned by the Sunshine Tour and the European Tour event came at the inaugural Tshwane Open where he finished third in 2013.
He also finished fourth at the Mauritius Open - the Asian Tour also sanctions that tournament - in December last year.
Behind him, Suri defied conventional wisdom around the short, tight Pretoria Country Club layout and took driver off the tee as often as he could. The result was seven birdies and just one dropped shot.
"Taking a lot of drivers on a course as tight as this wasn't a problem today," he said.
"If you drive it well, you're not necessarily like this place. You can lay back, but it pays off if you can bust a good drive out there. Like I said, that's my style. I'm confident in the way I'm swinging it, so I'll just keep doing it."
Aiken started his round with a bogey on his opening hole, the 10th. But he soon made up for it with five consecutive birdies. He made three more birdies and a bogey on his way to six-under.
"I hit pretty much all of my approaches on those five holes stiff, so I was very pleased with the way I started and really hung together in the last nine holes," he said.
Aguilar took the opposite approach to Suri, and that worked for him.
"You can go really aggressive and you can go six, seven, eight under, or on the other hand, you can shoot 80," he said. "You could go a little quieter, hitting some four-irons off the tee, and try to hit a pitching wedge instead of a sand wedge or a nine-iron. Today, I just didn't go for any holes. I just tried to play an easy kind of round."
Behind Norris, Smit and Newcomb on five-under, there was a group of 17 players on four-under, including 2015 champion George Coetzee.
64 - Louis de Jager
65 - Julian Suri, Thomas Aiken, Felipe Aguilar
66 - Shaun Norris, Combrinck Smit
67 - Maximilian Kieffer, Justin Walters, Ricardo Gouveia, Scott Fernandez, Jeff Winther, Adilson Da Silva, Robin Sciot-Siegrist, JJ Senekal, Christopher Mivis, Jinho Choi, Breyten Meyer, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, George Coetzee, Scott Jamieson, Richard Sterne, Daniel van Tonder, Patrick Newcomb
68 - Sam Horsfield, Scott Vincent, Bryce Easton, Jonathan Thomson, Clement Sordet, Ashley Chesters, Ulrich van den Berg, Matthias Schwab, Jaco Prinsloo, Darren Fichardt, JC Ritchie, Mikko Korhonen, Matthew Baldwin, Erik van Rooyen, Gregory Bourdy
69 - Victor Perez, Peter Karmis, Jean Hugo, Tapio Pulkkanen, Jacques Kruyswijk, Garth Mulroy, James Heath, Nino Bertasio, Vaughn Groenewald, Sebastien Gros, Kyle McClatchie, Matthew Carvell, Christofer Blomstrand, Benjamin Hebert, Pep Angles, Julien Guerrier, Hennie Otto, David Drysdale, Hennie du Plessis, Ryan Evans, Morten Orum Madsen, Alex Haindl
70 - Dwayne Basson, Grant Forrest, Merrick Bremner, Aaron Rai, Zander Lombard, Haydn Porteous, Connor Syme, Toto Thimba, Rourke van der Spuy, Christiaan Basson, Daniel Greene, Mark Williams, Romain Langasque, Anthony Michael, Danny Willett, David Howell, Jens Dantorp, Lyle Rowe, Toby Tree, Damon Stephenson
71 - Jack Singh Brar, Richard Mcevoy, Soomin Lee, Justin Harding, Tjaart van der Walt, Ruan de Smidt, Alexander Bjork, Mark Foster, Pedro Oriol, Jean-Paul Strydom, Matias Calderon, Jacques Blaauw, Keith Horne, Tyrone Ryan, Bernd Ritthammer, Duncan Stewart
72 - Neil Schietekat, Bradley Neil, Ross McGowan, Nico Geyger, Lorenzo Gagli, Richard Bland, Jbe' Kruger, Andre De Decker, Rhys West, Dawie Van der Walt, Raphael Jacquelin, Alexander Knappe, Chris Swanepoel, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Wallie Coetsee, Jaco Ahlers, Doug McGuigan, Charlie Ford, Marcus Kinhult, Matthew Nixon, Madalitso Muthiya, Steven Brown, James Kingston
73 - Callum Mowat, Riekus Nortje, Pontus Widegren, Oliver Bekker, Titch Moore, Marc Cayeux, Chris Cannon, Ockie Strydom, Laurie Canter, Julien Quesne, Andrea Pavan, Ben Evans
74 - Tyrone Ferreira, Jake Roos, Oliver Farr, Marcel Schneider, Henric Sturehed, Jason Norris, Tom Murray, Rhys Enoch, MJ Viljoen, Jared Harvey, Daan Huizing
75 - Lindani Ndwandwe, Zack Byrd, Gavin Moynihan, Garrick Porteous
76 - Daniel Brooks, Rak hyun Cho, Makhetha Mazibuko, CJ du Plessis, Jacquin Hess
77 - Chris Lloyd, Chase Koepka
79 - Keenan Davidse, Altaaf Bux
83 - Petr Dedek