Scottish duo set the pace

Scots Alastair Forsyth and Craig Lee form part of a fourway tie for the lead after the opening round of the Joburg Open.

The Scots were joined at seven-under by Italy's Edoardo Molinari and home player Justin Walters after the opening day at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington GC.

However, it was Lee who impressed most as his 65 came over the tougher par-72 West Course, while the others fired 64s at the par-71 East Course.

With three spots in this year's Open Championship up for grabs for the best-placed players in the top 10 not already exempt, Lee acknowledged there was extra motivation this week.

"You don't really change your strategy, but it's a great reward for three lucky guys who'll get a chance to play in The Open," he stated.

Forsyth, who did not card a bogey, said of his round: "The front nine was probably as good as I've played in a long time.

"I seemed to do everything right on the front nine, but I struggled a little on the back, where I ended up between clubs a few times. No dropped shots and seven birdies, so I'm never going to complain with that."

Behind the leading quartet were a posse of eight players at six-under including in-form George Coetzee who is looking to finally land his maiden European Tour title.

The 27-year-old from Pretoria claimed top-five finishes in both Abu Dhabi and Qatar in recent weeks and is well fancied to finally break his duck on home soil.

Alongside Coetzee are compatriots Hennie Otto, Graham van der Merwe and Danie Van Tonder, as well as Englishman James Heath who, like Lee, managed his score over the West Course.

Defending champion Richard Sterne reached five-under through just eight holes having made an eagle at his first, but could make no further progress after a birdie and a bogey on his back nine.

Joining Sterne at five-under were a number of European contenders including Ricardo Santos of Portugal, Damien McGrane of Ireland, Spain's Jorge Campillo and Englishmen Andy Sullivan and Tyrrell Hatton.

Two-time champion Charl Schwartzel finished the day four shots off the pace after a 69 on the West Course that featured an eagle and four birdies, but also a bogey and a double.