Tshwane Open   

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It caught even Justin Harding by surprise, but he was more than happy to sign for an opening 63 and the lead in the Tshwane Open.

The Somerset West professional’s round of seven under par earned him a one-stroke lead over Anthony Michael on a glorious first day at Pretoria Country Club.

Having missed his last three cuts, in the midst of swing changes, and still making the adjustment from a long to a short putter, Harding wasn’t expecting too much from his first round. Coming through his first nine holes in two under also didn’t suggest anything spectacular was about to happen.

But then came the par-four 11th hole, where he hit a seven iron 174 metres to one foot behind the hole for birdie. And a further four birdies – including a chip-in on 18 – for an inward loop of 30 on the par-70 course suddenly shot him to the top of the leaderboard.

“I haven’t been in front in one of these for a while. I don’t think ever, actually. It’s a good feeling,” said Harding.

“I’d played a solid front nine, but that birdie on 11 gave me a bit of a spark. It gave me a bit of confidence going into the back nine because there are some tough tee shots on that nine.

“The tricky thing about golf is that it’s hard to chase confidence. I don’t even know how you get confidence in this game. You hit a bunch of good shots and something clicks. I haven’t had the best stretch of late and have had a bunch of missed cuts. So I’ve got a bit of work to do in the next couple of events. This round was a bit of a surprise. I wasn’t expecting it just yet. I’ve just got to keep going.”

Pretoria’s Shaun Norris is five shots off the pace and still full of confidence following his victory in last week’s Myanmar Open on the Asian Tour.

Defending champion George Coetzee also opened with a round of two under. Haydn Porteous is at level par, while Charl Schwartzel and Brandon Stone both signed for first rounds of one-over 71.