JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Edoardo Molinari was in a four-way tie for the first-round lead at the European Tour's Joburg Open with his 7-under-par 64 on Thursday.
The Italian, chasing a British Open place as well as his first title in four years, was joined by Scottish pair Alastair Forsyth and Craig Lee and South African Justin Walters.
A 2010 Ryder Cup winner, Molinari opened with three straight birdies at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington and collected eight in all on the par-71 West Course.
"The front nine was probably as good as I've played in a long time," he said.
Lee had maybe the most impressive start with his 7-under 65 on the tougher par-72 East Course, with eight birdies and just one bogey on No. 17.
"It's really hard to figure out where you are in the field with two golf courses, and with the East being slightly tougher I feel like I'm in a good position," Lee said.
Forsyth and Walters both carded 64s on the West, with Forsyth not dropping a shot all day. They led by one shot.
Players play one round on the East and West courses before finishing on the East over the weekend.
The tournament is also a qualifying event for the British Open in July and offers places to the three highest-placed finishers in the top 10 not already exempt.