Alex Haindl carded a solid 66 for round one of the Sicilian Open, but could have held the lead were it not for a double-drop at the 18th at Verdura Golf and Spa Resort on Thursday.
The 29-year-old was firing on all cylinders Â he penciled in nine birdies during the round Â and his confidence was rewarded when he took a share of fifth, two shots back from leader Peter Lawrie.
Haindl finished second at the Telkom PGA Championship last month and on Thursday displayed the same impressive form with a run of birdies from the 10th to the 14th.
He had already strung together three birdies from the second to the fourth for a speedy move to three-under, which he maintained through the turn.
After his explosive entry to the back stretch, Haindl finally slipped, carding a bogey at the 16th, but recovered the drop with a birdie at 17 and looked set to hold the top spot.
The 18th, however, was not going to allow Haindl to remain at eight-under, which would have secured him the shared lead. He double-dropped at the final hole, a 434-metre par four, and went on to sign for 66 Â 33 on either side of the turn.
Tjaart van der Walt, who holds 45th in the Race to Dubai, had less fireworks during the day, but did well to overcome a drop at the sixth by carding four birdies during the round. He reached the clubhouse at three-under and heads into day two sharing 33rd.
2011 Sunshine Tour Order of Merit winner Garth Mulroy managed 35 on either side of the turn to tie-up the first round at two-under and in a share of 54th. He needs to string four rounds together to repeat the kind of success he enjoyed when he took victory at the Alfred Dunhill Championship last year.
Branden Grace and Darren Fichardt had a tough time and carded 75 and 76, respectively.