On a course where sightings of leopards, monkeys and even elephants are commonplace, it was Wil Besseling who proved a big-game player in the first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship.

The Dutchman, one of several players in the field to take advantage of being allowed to wear shorts for the first time on the European Tour, carded a seven-under 65 to sit one shot clear in sweltering heat at Leopard Creek.

A three-man chasing pack consisting of Pablo Larrazabal, Garrick Porteous and Keith Horne provides the closest competition to Besseling, who has never won on the European Tour.

The event marks the start of the new Race to Dubai campaign but world number 47 Eddie Pepperell is the highest ranked player in action in South Africa, the Englishman signing for a modest 71.

Besseling’s card showed just one blemish, which came amid a run of three birdies and an eagle across five holes on the back nine.

“I played nicely,” said Besseling in quotes reported by the European Tour website. “It’s a great start for the season and a great round. I’m very happy with my 65.

“I had it going nicely on the par fives. I was able to get there in two with irons and converted the birdies and an eagle on 15 really helped.”

Horne was not the only man to give the home fans hope of a South African winner, with 2015 champion Branden Grace joining compatriots Daniel van Tonder and Thomas Aiken on four under.