Westwood, Schwartzel in front

Lee Westwood and Charl Schwartzel both shot 68s to share the lead after round one of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

World No 3 Lee Westwood and Masters champion Charl Schwartzel both shot four-under-par 68s to share a one-shot lead after the first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

The duo outscored the rest of the elite 12-man field on the first day at the Gary Player Country Club in South Africa, with Sweden’s Robert Karlsson alone in third after a first-round 69.

A host of players lie a further stroke behind the Swede after two-under 70s – World No 1 Luke Donald, Germany’s Martin Kaymer, Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, Englishman Simon Dyson, lone American in the field Jason Dufner and South Korean Kyung-Tae Kim.

Dane Anders Hansen and Italian Francesco Molinari are two shots further back at even par, while Open champion Darren Clarke was the only man to shoot over par, carding a two-over 74.

Both leaders started slowly on Thursday, with Westwood, the defending champion, bogeying the first hole and finding himself level par after eight holes.

But that changed quickly after two superb shots at the long ninth paved the way for an eagle three before another birdie at the 10th suddenly saw him tied for second place.

Another bogey was to come after a three-putt at 12, but he got the shot back at 15 and then joined Schwartzel’s lead with a curling 20-footer at the 18th.

Schwartzel looked even more of an unlikely leader early in his round, with a double-bogey at the ninth caused by hitting his third into the water leaving him on one over par.

But birdies at 10, 12, 13, 14 and 16 soon followed for the South African, who eventually came home in 31 to post the clubhouse lead.

“I got angry and then I got fearless,” said Schwartzel, “and I just started firing at the flags.

“The way I played on the back nine is more reflective of the way I have been playing lately.

“I’ve been hitting the ball really well, and once I get the putts rolling, I’m getting into good positions in tournaments.”

His error at the ninth came in the midst of a brief rain shower, and he said it was trying to compensate for those conditions that led to his downfall.

“I thought I had to hit it a little harder to get a decent second shot into the green,” he added, “and I just pushed it right.

“To be fair, I very nearly got the lay-up out of the rough with my seven-iron spot on, but it just hit a little branch and fell back into the rough.”

Third-placed Karlsson led for much of the day after racing to three under following a hat-trick of birdies from the second.

He had reached four under with three holes to play, but missed a short birdie putt at 16 and then bogeyed the difficult 17th to fall back to three under.

Donald was also looking good for the first-round lead after three birdies on the back nine, but he found the water off the tee on 17, resulting in a double bogey that dropped him back down to two under, where he stayed after completing the last.

Kaymer also found water at the 17th, and lost much of the momentum he had built up on the front nine as he struggled coming home to eventually finish on two under.