Thomas Aiken fired an impressive 9-under 64 in the opening round of the Africa Open at the East London Golf Club.

The South African is one shot ahead of two-time Major winner Retief Goosen and the unheralded Jaco Ahlers who both signed for 65s.

Goosen didn’t have the best start to his round, but a career-first five birdies in a row from the 11th hole set him back on track.

“That first tee shot was a fairly good shot, but it rolled through the fairway and hit a bad lie. It wasn’t quite the way I wanted to start, but Thomas got off to a great start and that fired me up,” the Goose said.

“Suddenly I went five birdies in a row. I can’t actually remember if I’ve ever done that before.”

Aiken, like Goosen, began his round on the 9th and didn’t take long to start making an impact on the leaderboard himself, when he eagled the par-5 11th.

The 2011 Spanish Open champion’s impressive run also included three birdies from 16 to 18, another eagle at the par-five third and back-to-back birdies at the fifth and sixth holes.

“Well, I’d call that a memorable start,” said Aiken.

“I haven’t taken a cover off a club for two weeks. I spent the last two weeks bashing about in the bush and kept well clear of my golf clubs. I didn’t come into this event with any expectations, so I have to say, this is a great result.”

Aiken said playing with a South African legend spurred him on.

“Playing with Retief definitely lifted my game. We certainly fed off each other, because we’ve both had a break over the festive season.

“It was a great day for scoring, though. This is not the longest course, but it bites if you go skew. If you hit anything off line on this layout, it’s a reload off the tee. It’s a real thinking man’s course because there are a lot of risk-and-reward holes.”

Defending champion Louis Oosthuizen shot a 69 to sit in a tie for 26th alongside an impressive Richard Sterne who is playing his first tournament in nearly a year.