West Australian Jason Scrivener has kept himself in touch with the early frontrunners after the opening day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa.
Two-time winner Sergio Garcia leads the way by four shots after posting a superb eight-under 64 at the Gary Player Country Club, registering eight birdies in his bogey-free round.
But Scrivener, France's Benjamin Hebert, China's Ashun Wu and Englishmen Andy Sullivan and Matt Wallace make up the group tied for fifth, five shots back after they each carded rounds of three-under 69.
South Africa's Charl Schwartzel is one of three second-placed players on four under, along with Finn Mikko Korhonen and Frenchman Mike Lorenzo-Vera.
There is then a group of six at three under, including Schwartzel's compatriot Louis Oosthuizen.
South Africa's defending champion Branden Grace is at two under, along with New Zealand's Ryan Fox, while World No.6 Rory McIlroy is a further two shots back.
The Northern Irishman made the fourth birdie of his round on the 13th before posting a second bogey on the 14th, and then double-bogeyed the 17th.
RIGHT: Garcia leads by four shots after the opening round of the Nedbank Challenge. PHOTO: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images.
McIlroy, without a European Tour win this season, needs at least one victory in the next two weeks to have a chance of being crowned Europe's No.1 for a fourth time.
Garcia's birdies came on the 1st, on four out of five holes from the 7th, and then on three of the last four.
The 38-year-old – going for a second consecutive win, having triumphed at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters last month – said in quotes on the European Tour website on Thursday: "It felt great. I rolled the ball nicely, I made some good putts here and there.
"It was one of those rounds where things happened nicely to me. I think I played very smart, I probably wasn't swinging unbelievably but I kept it under control and kept the ball in play all the time which is difficult to do here."