McIlroy well poised as South African duo lead on home soil
Rory McIlroy is just a shot back from joint-leaders Trevor Fisher Jr and Keith Horne after the first round of the South Africa Open.
World number two McIlroy hit the ground running in his first competitive round of the year at the European Tour event hosted by City of Ekurhuleni, carding a five-under 67 on Thursday.
The four-time major champion, playing in this tournament for the first time in eight years, started on the back nine and reeled off four birdies in a row after four consecutive pars.
McIlroy made another gain at the second, and a further two after back-to-back bogeys at the fourth and fifth before seeing a birdie putt at the last come agonisingly close to dropping.
Fisher and Horne lead the way in their homeland after they both dropped just one shot to sign for 66 in Gauteng.
The 2015 Africa Open champion Fisher lost his playing privileges last year, but will head into the second round with a share of the lead after hitting the turn in 31 as a result of rattling off six birdies in seven holes.
Fisher moved to six under with another birdie at the first, but was unable to go any lower in a tournament in which he has finished in the top 15 in each of his last five starts.
Horne matched his compatriot's opening round after responding to his only bogey at 15 with consecutive birdies.
South African trio Thomas Aiken, Dean Burmester and Jbe Kruger are level with McIlroy, while Jordan L Smith is also on five under.
Veteran six-time major champion Nick Faldo is just four shots off the lead in his first regular European Tour start for over two years, while defending champion Brandon Stone and tournament host Ernie Els are two over.