Gregory Bourdy carded a 6-under 66 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead after the opening round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
Bourdy is a three-time winner on the European Tour and finished eight strokes off the pace at last week's rain-shortened Nelson Mandela Championship.
Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is one stroke off the lead at Leopard Creek Country Club at minus-5. He was joined in second place by Richard Bland, Darren Fichardt, Steve Webster, Oliver Bekker and Louis De Jager.
Branden Grace, who won four times on the European Tour last year, shot 4-under 68. He shares eighth place with Graeme Storm, Mark Williams and Maximilian Kieffer.
Four of the players in second place played in the morning to set the target at minus-5.
Bourdy, 30, started his round with a birdie at the first. After three pars, he dropped in back-to-back birdie efforts at the fifth and sixth.
The Frenchman parred four in a row around the turn. He converted a birdie effort on the par-4 11th and came right back with another birdie on the 12th to grab a share of the lead.
At the par-3 16th, Bourdy dropped in his final birdie to move one stroke clear of the field. He parred the last two holes to close out a bogey-free round.
"This isn't an easy course so I'm very happy to have played well here. I played very solid, consistent golf. I had a lot of birdie opportunities, but to make six is good enough for me," Bourdy stated. "I felt great with my irons today, so early on in my round I made birdies very quickly. But I've felt good about my game for a few weeks now and I've been waiting for a better performance. Now I have that opportunity this week."
Schwartzel had three birdies on the front nine, and two more around the turn to grab a share of second.
"It's a nice start. Whenever you can start off with a 5-under it's good," said Schwartzel. "I've always liked the course. It always seems to suit my eye and it's got some sort of relaxing feel about it, so the combination goes well together."
Fichardt, who shared fourth place at this event in 2006, also had a bogey-free round with two birdies on the front and three on the back nine.
Webster, who lost in a playoff last week, poured in three straight birdies from the 13th. On the front side, he birdied the third and fifth en route to his own bogey-free round.
Bland also had a clean card with five birdies and 13 pars, while de Jager and Bekker posted six birdies and a lone bogey.
NOTES: This is the fifth time in his career that Bourdy has had at least a piece of the first-round lead ... Bourdy's last tour win was at the 2009 Hong Kong Open ... Garth Mulroy, who won this crown the last time the event was played in 2011, opened with a 71 that included six birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey.