Gareth Maybin is tied for 28th, five shots behind the first round leaders Jbe Kruger and Andy Sullivan following the opening round of the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club in Johannesburg.
The Ballyclare golfer, who lost his tour card last year, opened with a one under par 71 that included six birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey at the par four ninth. Dublin’s Peter Lawrie, who also failed to retain his playing privileges on tour last year, also signed for a one under 71.
Tournament host Ernie Els set about making amends for a winless 2014 with an excellent start, carding six birdies and one bogey to finish five under par, one shot behind the leaders.
The 45-year-old started on the back nine and recovered from a bogey on the 12th with birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th to be out in 34, before picking up further shots on the second and fifth.
Els missed a good birdie chance on the seventh from 15 feet, but finished his round in style with a superb iron shot to two feet on the ninth for a closing birdie.
“That was nice,” said Els, who failed to register a top-three finish on the European Tour last season.
Els has reverted to a normal putter ahead of the ban on anchored strokes which comes into effect in 2016 and admitted short putts were “still a little bit nerve-wracking”.