(CNN) -- Anthony Michael led by one shot after Thursday's first round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship, the opening tournament of the 2011 European Tour season, as British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen struggled on home soil.
Michael carded a six-under-par 66 at Leopard Creek in his native South Africa to leave compatriot Oosthuizen, who is recovering from an ankle injury, well off the pace after a four-over 76.
Oosthuizen, who won his first major title so dramatically at St. Andrews in July, is the highest-ranked player in the field at 24. But double bogeys at the second and seventh holes undermined his challenge.
Four birdies were mixed with four further bogeys to leave him tied for 114th in the event co-sanctioned by the European and Sunshine Tours.
Oosthuizen, returning after a two-month break from competitive action, finished a creditable 13th in the Dubai World Championship at the end of last month, cementing his 10th place overall in the 2010 Race To Dubai standings.
But a stomach upset saw him struggle in last week's Nedbank Challenge at Sun City, and his continued poor form means he will need a strong second round to make the halfway cut.
By contrast, the 25-year-old Michael dropped only a single stroke with seven birdies to leave himself a shot clear of England's Robert Rock, Sebastian Buhl of Germany, Norwegian Marius Thorp, and another South African, Dawie Van der Walt.
Rock, looking for his first win on the European Tour after three runner-up finishes, was bogey-free in his morning round.
"My putter worked really well today. I sank a 50- to 60-footer for birdie on the eighth and a 25-footer on the next hole," Michael, who has been on a four-year golf scholarship in the United States, told the official European Tour website.
Defending champion Pablo Martin of Spain was well-placed after a three-under 69, while South African favorites Charl Schwartzel and 2008 winner Richard Sterne shot 70 and 73 respectively.
Meanwhile, in the Ladies European Tour 2010 finale in Dubai, American star Michelle Wie carded a level-par 72 on Thursday to be six shots back at the halfway stage.
The 21-year-old was on one-under 143 at the Emirates Golf Club.
Welsh player Lydia Hall led the way on 137 after shooting a second-round five-under 67.