Rookie Paul Dunne shot a 73 but Kevin Phelan got the new season off to an excellent start with a two under 70 in the weather-delayed Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
The Mount Juliet professional had five birdies and three bogeys in his opening round and was inside the top 30, six shots behind clubhouse leader Christiaan Basson, who shot an eight under 64.
Dunne was two over after five but doubled the sixth and bogeyed the eighth and ninth to turn in two over before slipping to three over with another bogey at the 14th.
However, he birdied the par-five 15th and 18th and undo some of the damage and at least give himself a fighting chance of making the cut in his first start since winning his card at Q-School last week.
Peter Lawrie, who disqualified himself at Q-School, was playign alongside Basson and as the South African racked up eight birdies, the Dubliner started with a triple bogey seven and neeed a birdie at the 18th to post a seven over 79.
Bad weather prevented the first round being completed on Thursday but three time winner Charl Schwartzel returned on Friday morning to make it four birdies in his closing five holes for a 66 that left him as Basson’s closest rival at the end of the opening round.
Basson's previous best European Tour finish in 30 events was a tie for tenth at The South African Open Championship Hosted by the City of Ekurhuleni in the 2014 season but he made an excellent start in his attempts to better that on Thursday.
The 33 year old made birdies on the second, fifth, sixth and eighth to turn in 31 and four more followed on the 11th, 13th, 14th and 16th to move him to the summit.
"I played very well today, I was pleasantly surprised," he said after completing his first round. "I was coming into this week with good form but you can't expect that good a round first off
"Hopefully I can keep playing the way I'm playing, golf is a funny game, you never know what is going to happen.
"We've just found something that I was doing wrong coming into Cape Town and that's just one swing thought that has kind of got me on track.
“It's not a big thing, it's a basic thing but it's made all the difference the last two weeks and I'm quite happy."
Defending champion Branden Grace and Louis Oosthuizen were among the headliners in the field but they got their weeks off to a quiet start in Malelane.
Oosthuizen has enjoyed a mixed bag at this event down the years, with two runners-up finishes and six missed cuts in 11 appearances, and he continued that theme with an opening 70.
The 2010 Open Championship winner started on the tenth and turned in 33 with birdies on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 18th. Another birdie followed on the first but a bogey on the second and a double-bogey on the third saw him drop back.
A shot was gained on the sixth but then given straight back on the seventh to leave Oosthuizen at two under, one shot clear of playing partner Grace.
Grace, who finished third in The Race to Dubai last week, turned in 37 after a double-bogey on the 14th before gains on the first and fourth but he gave a shot back after finding the water off the seventh tee.