England's Jamie Elson and Ireland's Damien McGrane share the clubhouse lead after weather interrupted Thursday’s first round of the Joburg Open. The tournament is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
Only about half the field finished before darkness fell, and play is secheduled to resume at 6:45 a.m. local time.
Elson, who holed a 40-foot birdie putt on the final green of the European Tour's Q-School at the end of last year to secure his card, made a flying start to 2012 with an 8-under-par 63 on Royal Johannesburg and Kensington's easier West Course. That matched the earlier effort of McGrane, who managed to reach the clubhouse before thunderstorms halted play.
South Africans pair Desvonde Botes and Peter Karmis and Holland's Reinier Saxton are a shot off the lead on 7 under, with Scotland’s David Drysdale and George Murray another stroke back. Retief Goosen is tied for 12th after a 66 on the West Course, while former PGA Champion Rich Beem is 2 over through 15 holes on the more difficult East Course.
Masters champion Charl Schwartzel, looking for a third straight win in the event, was level par with three holes left to play on the East Course. If Schwartzel, a Johannesburg native who grew up near the host venue, makes it a hat trick he would become only the sixth player, after Ian Woosnam, Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Tiger Woods, to win the same European Tour event three years in a row.
In total around four hours were lost because of the threat of lightning, with some players unable to complete their rounds before darkness set in as a result.
Elson was 6 under after 15 holes before the suspension and picked up two more shots in his last three holes when play resumed.
"I had just hit a good shot on 16, the par 3, and there was a strong downwind," Elson said. "With the water short (of the green) it was a pretty good shot and left myself with an 8-footer when I resumed play. I managed to knock that in and then finished well.
"I had a good year here last year -- I think I shot 6-under on the second day at the hard course -- so if I can do that again it would be nice."
McGrane carded five birdies in a flawless front nine of 31 and collected two more on the back nine before chipping in for an eagle on the 15th. The only blemish on his scorecard came at the 18th with a bogey.
"I am delighted to be in a good position after Round 1," McGrane said. "For the last three or four years, Irish golf has been quite incredible and I think we feed off each other.
"I stacked up a few birdies during the round, but that eagle really turned my round," he added. "I hit plenty of fairways and holed a few nice putts for birdie, it was just the bogey at the last which was disappointing. Apart from that it was a perfect round of golf."