Kieffer, Sterne share Euro lead

Germany’s Maximilian Kieffer and South Africa’s Richard Sterne each shot an 8-under-par 63 Thursday to share the lead after the first round of the European Tour’s Joburg Open.

Kieffer and Sterne both had bogey-free rounds on the West Course at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club to move ahead of another South African, Bryce Easton, who had a 7-under 65 on the East Course.

American Peter Uihlein was one of eight players tied for fourth at 6 under.

Kieffer had eight birdies. Sterne sank six birdies and an eagle on No. 9 on the par-71 West, continuing the fine early season form that saw him finish second at the Dubai Desert Classic.

”You feel you need to put a good score together on the West Course, and I did that,” Sterne said. ”Now I’ve got three tough rounds on the East and, hopefully, I can give myself a chance on Sunday.”

Easton’s round was boosted by a hole in one on the par-3 12th on the longer, par-72 East Course. Uihlein had a single bogey on No. 17 on the West.

Defending champion Branden Grace and two-time winner Charl Schwartzel also began on the East Course, but both struggled for consistency. Schwartzel opened with a 68 for a tie for 25th and Grace finished with a level-par 72, thanks in part to a double-bogey six on No. 11.

Kieffer is a recent graduate of the Challenge Tour, and began with five birdies on the front nine.

”I’ve been playing well and am just trying to stay positive on the golf course,” he said. ”When you come from the Challenge Tour, everybody says you are good enough for the European Tour. But you still want to prove your worth out here.”