Centurion, South Africa – Darren Fichardt fired a 7-under 65 on Thursday to grab a 1-stroke lead at the inaugural Tshwane Open.
Fichardt won the Africa Open two weeks ago to pick up his fourth European Tour victory.
Bjorn Akesson is one stroke off the lead at minus-6 at Copperleaf Golf & Country Estate.
David Howell and Jeev Milkha Singh headline a group of six players that share third place at 5-under 67. They were joined there by Jean Hugo, Charl Coetzee, Gary Lockerbie and Mark Tullo.
"I love playing in South Africa. I've always had good results and it always gives me positive vibes and good memories when I come back," Singh stated. "Things have worked out nicely that I'm back here and I love the course. I'm happy with the way I hit the ball and I putted well. I holed a lot of putts today and I'm happy with the way the round turned out."
There are 16 players tied at minus-4, while 2011 British Open champion Darren Clarke headlines a group of players at 3-under 69.
Fichardt started on the back nine and opened with a birdie on the 10th. After a pair of pars, he converted his second birdie effort at the par-4 13th.
The 37-year-old South African 2-putted for birdie at the 15th to kick start a run of three straight birdies, which moved him to minus-5.
Fichardt, who is ranked 93rd in the world and is the fourth highest ranked player in the field, birdied the first and fourth. After a par at five, he moved to 8-under with a birdie at the sixth.
However, he gave that stroke right back with a bogey on the par-4 seventh. Fichardt parred the last two holes to end there.
"Right now, it's been eight weeks in a row and I don't even know what's going on. I'm just going with the flow and hitting one shot at a time. I'm looking forward to a break," said Fichardt, who is playing for the eighth straight week. "I'll take it one day at a time and do my best this week."
Akesson opened his round with birdies at the first and third. He moved to minus-3 with a birdie on the par-4 sixth, but gave that stroke right back as he bogeyed the seventh.
The Swede atoned for that mistake with a birdie on No. 10. After a pair of pars, he dropped in back-to-back birdie efforts at 13 and 14.
Akesson holed out for eagle on the long par-5 15th to briefly grab a piece of the lead, but he stumbled to a bogey at No. 17 to end one back.
NOTES: Michael Campbell, the 2005 U.S. Open champion, carded an even-par 72 and is tied for 80th, while two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal struggled to a 4-over 76 ... Simon Dyson, the highest ranked player in the field at world No. 83, stumbled to a 5-over 77 ... This is the sixth and final event in South Africa this year.