Damien McGrane two off the lead in South Africa

Meath golfer cards six birdies in opening 66 at Joburg Open

Ireland’s Damien McGrane is two shots off the lead after the opening round of the Joburg Open after carding a five-under-par 66 over the East Course at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Thursday

The Meath golfer dropped his only shot on the par-five second, recording six birdies in total to finish the day in a share of 13th position.

The Scottish pair of Alastair Forsyth and Craig Lee, home hopeful Justin Walters and Italy's Edoardo Molinari are all on seven under, with Lee the only one to have played the par-72 West Course in his first round.

Lee picked up six birdies on the front nine and another on the way back to the clubhouse while Forsyth signed for 64 at the end of a day spent on West Course.

Only a bogey on the 17th hole denied Glasgow player Forsyth the chance to take the outright lead.

“I’ve played really nice golf for that, so I’m delighted with the score that I’ve managed to put together,” said Lee.

“It’s really hard to figure out where you are in the field with two golf courses, and with the East being slightly tougher I feel like I’m in a good position.

“If we can keep the same level of golf then we might be able to separate ourselves from the bunch.”

Forsyth, who needed only 30 shots to reach the turn, said: “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.”

Johannesburg-born Walters and Turin’s Molinari were also starting the tournament on the West Course and both men started the day with three straight birdies before bogeying the par-four fourth hole.

South Africans Graham van der Merwe, Hennie Otto, Danie van Tonder and George Coetzee are part of a large group tied for second place on six under while defending champion Richard Sterne carded a five-under-par 67 to sit alongside McGrane.

David Higgins carded a three under on the East, while rookie Kevin Phelan was level par around the same course. Peter Lawrie struggled on the West Course, carding six bogeys and three birdies in a round of 76.