David Howell got his year off to a superb start with a five under par opening round at the Africa Open.
The ever popular Englishman made the most of favourable early conditions to card a 68. Howell shot six birdies and one bogey to sit four off the lead in tied 13th place.
He is joined on -5 by South African Tyrone Ferreira who managed to stay bogey free on day one at the East London Golf Club.
Chris Wood made a welcome return following three months out with a back injury and seemed keen to make up for lost time with a four under 69.
Wood said: “I’m just really pleased to be back playing on the European Tour.”
American Scott Pinckney, making his first appearance as a card-carrying European Tour member, is another in the large group on -4. The 22-year-old sealed his card in dramatic fashion by birdieing the last two holes in the final round of qualifying school.
After Thursday’s round he said: “Off to a good start. Left a couple out there but stuck to my game plan and played well. Same thing tomorrow. Fairways and greens.”
There were 25 players who carded 69’s including defending champion Louis Oosthuizen. The South African favourite suffered a double bogey six on the sixth and went to the turn level par. However, four birdies on the back nine put the 2010 Open Champion back into contention.
Allan Versfeld, 2011’s Sunshine Tour Rookie of the Year, was another player on -4 in a share for 26th place.
Matt Nixon and James Kingston are a further shot back while George Coetzee finished his round on two under. Matt Baldwin and Danny Denison carded one under par 72’s in his their first rounds as a full-time European Tour members.
Thomas Aitken leads the tournament on -9, one ahead of South Africans Retief Goosen and Jaco Ahlers.