South Africans Martin Maritz and Tyrone Mordt each shot a 9-under 62 Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Joburg Open.
Maritz carded nine birdies in a bogey-free round on the East Course at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club. Mordt then matched his accomplishment on the shorter West Course at the $1.7 million event co-sanctioned by the European Tour and southern Africa’s Sunshine Tour.
Fellow South African Branden Grace was one shot back after making six birdies and an eagle for a 63.
The co-leaders registered nine birdies each, including four in a row on the back nine.
Players alternate courses over the first two days, with the final two rounds played on the East Course.
Another local, Thomas Aiken, also excelled on the East Course after his 64 put him a on 7 under and left him as the only other player in the top 10 to have gotten the more difficult 18 out of the way. Also on that score was Frenchman Alexandre Kaleka, while eight players were a further stroke back on six under after 65s.
Among them were Britons Stuart Manley, Jamie Elson and Robert Dinwiddie along with Norway's Marius Thorp, Dutchman Floris de Vries and South Africans Peter-Henric McIntyre, Garth Mulroy and Divan van den Heever.
The man they were all chasing was Maritz, who has never won a tournament on tour and who recently took a break from professional golf due to frustration over his game.
Speaking after his round, which saw him begin with successive birdies, add a further two at Nos. 6 and 8 and then conclude with five birdies in his last six holes, he admitted that despite suggestions the West Course was easier, he felt otherwise.
"That's what everybody thinks (the West Course is easier) but over the last few years, I think I've played better on the East Course,” Maritz said. "I think it's because in junior days and amateur days we played a lot of tournaments on that course. I think if I can shoot anything close to that tomorrow, I'll be very, very happy.
"I've been working really hard on my short game, it's not my strong point, so I'm just ecstatic, it's just a magical round for me today and I'm over the moon," added the Pretoria-born golfer, now based in Tulsa, Okla.
Grace, the clubhouse leader for most of the day, recorded six birdies and an eagle in a perfect round, and conceded that the West Course players had no option but to score low on Thursday.
"I thought beforehand that one of the keys was to go low on the West and fortunately I managed to do it today," he said. "I played really well, I didn't make any mistakes out there and everything went to plan, so I'm pretty pleased with that."
Defending champion Charl Schwartzel had a solid, yet unspectacular, start to his tournament with a 68 on the East Course, while one of his playing partners, Northern Irishman Darren Clarke, ended on 1-under 70 thanks to three successive birdies to finish.