Johannesburg, South Africa (SportsNetwork.com) - Edoardo Molinari fired a 7- under 64 on Thursday to sit among a group of four players sharing the lead of the Joburg Open.
Molinari is joined by Alastair Forsyth, Justin Walters and Craig Lee.
Molinari, Walters and Forsyth all played their opening rounds on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington Golf Club and also carded a 64, while Lee played on the par-71 East Course and shot a 65.
"I don't normally play well at all in South Africa, my record here is actually pretty pathetic," said Lee. "I've never played that great around here, but my game has gotten slightly better over the years."
Heath James (66), Hennie Otto (65), George Coetzee (65), Robert-Jan Derksen (65), Danie Van Tonder (65), Jin Jeong (65), Graham Van Der Merwe (65) and Edouard Dubois (65) all shot 6-under to sit in a tie for fifth place. Heath is the only member of that group to play on the East Course.
Defending champion Richard Sterne posted a 5-under 67 on the East Course and is among a group of 12 players sharing 13th place.
Molinari started fast with three straight birdies to race to 3-under, but snapped the streak with a bogey at the fourth.
He got that stroke back with a birdie at the seventh and added back-to-back gains at the ninth and 10th to reach 5-under.
He added another pair of gains at the 14th and 15th to move to 7-under and parred his final three holes to finish there.
Walters matched Molinari's start with three straight birdies followed by a bogey at the fourth.
The South African birdied the sixth and ninth to turn at 4-under, and added gains at the 11th, 15th and 16th to grab a share of the lead.
Lee recorded three birdies and six pars over a steady front nine. He then added consecutive birdies at the 10th and 11th, and 14th and 15th to move to 7-under.
He lost his share of the lead with a bogey at the 17th, but bounced right back with a gain at the last to reclaim a piece of the first place.
Forsyth was the lone member of the leaders to post a bogey-free round, picking up shots at Nos. 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9 and 15.
"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," Forsyth said about his round.
Mark Murless flirted with the idea of posting the European Tour's first 59 Thursday by racing out the gate with an incredible start.
The four-time winner on South Africa's Sunshine Tour birdied the first before converting an eagle effort at the second to jump to 3-under.
He stayed hot with a pair of birdies at the third and fourth, and followed a par at the fifth by holing out his second shot for an eagle at the par-4 sixth.
Murless closed an outward 28 with a birdie at the ninth to make the turn in sole possession of first place at 8-under.
He struggled from there, however, as he would not pick up another shot while tripping to bogeys at the 13th and 17th, and a double bogey 6 at the 18th to finish at 4-under.
NOTES: The top three players of this tournament, if they are not already qualified, will earn an invitation to the British Open. If there is a tie, the spot will be awarded to the player with the highest ranking in the Official World Golf Ranking at the start of the week ... Molinari and Forsyth each have two career wins on the European Tour, while Walters and Lee are both seeking their first victory on tour.