Darren Clarke and Michael Hoey were left trailing a red hot Angel Cabrera in the Africa Open at the East London Golf Club.
Former US Open champion Cabrera fired a sensational 10-under-par 62 to lead the Sunshine Tour event by a shot from Canada's Graham de Laet
Clarke bogeyed the last for a five under par 67 and a share ninth place with fellow Ulsterman Hoey, who had to pre-qualify on Tuesday, a shot further back after a 68.
Clarke said: “When I got here first thing this morning to get ready for play, I had a look at the leaderboard and I was 11 behind before I hit a ball.
“So now I’m only five behind, so it’s a bit of an improvement.”
Cabrera got the kind of start players dream of when he shot a course record 10-under-par 62 in the opening round.
All the talk the day before was about the wind, but, on a still, cloudy morning, Cabrera started out with nine birdies and an eagle before he dropped a shot on the fifth (the 15th for him in his round) and had taken a single shot lead over Canadian Graham De Laet, who also started early.
Of the other early starters, those who made best use of the conditions were Neil Schietekat, Alex Haindl and James Kingston at six-under-66.
They were joined later by Retief Goosen, who played a carefully-compiled round with six birdies and no dropped shots and looked ominously calm.
But ahead of them were Darren Fichardt and Charl Schwartzel, who overcame a pair of bogeys each to card seven-under 65s and lead the South African challenge.
Cabrera didn’t let the dropped shot deter him: “That was the only shot that I hit badly on the whole course, actually. I just felt good and I was just trying to make another birdie on the last three holes,” he said.
He was only too aware of the fragility of his lead in the face of the forecast of winds for the rest of the tournament: “I was lucky today, playing in the morning,” he said. “Tomorrow I have to play in the afternoon. Guys who played in the afternoon today will have a bit of an advantage tomorrow, so it wills even things out.”
De Laet’s round was flawless with seven birdies and an eagle: “I actually holed out a shot on the 13th, and that doesn’t happen every day. So yeah, it was a good day,” he said.
It was disconcerting to have Cabrera firing away in front of him: “It was kinda crazy because I was playing well. I was like four-under through nine and the first leaderboard we saw, he was like nine-under through 12,” he said.