Kruger, Sullivan Lead South African Open

South Africa’s Jbe Kruger and England’s Andy Sullivan must have gone to bed on time on New Year’s Eve as the pair looked the most well-rested on Day One of the South African Open Championship Thursday in Johannesburg.

Each player shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over a field that includes host and ambassador Ernie Els just one stroke off the lead.

Els, who turned 45 in October, is in pursuit of his 29th career European Tour victory. It would tie him for sixth-most all time with Ian Woosnam.

Kruger, ranked 37th to date in the Race to Dubai standings, was at his best on the back nine, shooting 4-under. He did not record a single bogey on the day.

Sullivan’s round was a wild ride by comparison. He was 1-over through five holes thanks to a double bogey 6 on No. 5. He got back to 1-under at the turn, then caught fire with three straight birdies and an eagle between 12 and 15.

Els, in pursuit of his sixth title here (no other player has more than two), would have been tied for the lead except for a bogey on No. 12. He otherwise knocked six birdies, three on the front nine and three on the back.

Also tied for second with Els are Norway’s Lasse Jensen and South Africa’s Richard Sterne, with four more players, including world No. 13 Charl Schwartzel, tied for sixth at 4-under.

Schwartzel started slowly – even par through 5, then notched four birdies between 8 and 17 to get into the mix.

In all, a whopping 40 of the 156 players on hand shot at least one stroke under par to open the tournament. Defending champion Morten Orum Madsen of Norway is one of the players on the other side of par, struggling to a 1-over 73 to sit tied for 54th.

It was a rough day for Madsen, starting with a double bogey that left him 2-over through the first 11 holes.

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