The New South Welshman, playing on a special invitation for the European Tour event, shot a five-under 67 in strong winds that made it tough for Thursday's early starters at Leopard Creek Country Club.

The 27-year-old, who at one stage led the Australian PGA Championship in November before finishing tied for 19th, is one shot adrift of leader Oliver Bekker.

The South African native put together four straight birdies on the back nine to overtake Papadatos, who sat atop the leaderboard for much of the afternoon.

Bekker was fortunate to play when the wind died down. He rolled in a putt from the fringe on the 12th and landed his approach inches from the cup at 14 to complete his string of birdies.

Raphael Jacquelin was third at four under and nine players, including defending champion Brandon Stone, were another shot further back.

Louis Oosthuizen, winner of the South African Open last weekend, started with a one-under 71 and was tied for 22nd.

The Alfred Dunhill Championship is returning to the European Tour schedule this year.

It wasn't played last season because the Leopard Creek course, on the edge of the Kruger National Park game reserve, was undergoing renovations.