Michael Hoey is seven off the pace after an opening level-par 70 at the Tshwane Open in South Africa while Darren Clarke carded a 71.
Hoey, currently only 120th in the Race to Dubai, shared second in last year's event behind England's Ross Fisher.
Five-time European Tour winner Hoey is seven behind England's David Horsey and Dane Morten Orum Madsen.
European Ryder Cup captain Clarke's round included three bogeys and two birdies at the Waterkloof course.
The left the current world number 488 sharing 80th spot and needing an improvement today to make the cut.
An early eagle helped Hoey to move to two under after eight holes on Thursday but three bogeys then dropped the Galgorm Castle tournament professional to one over and he needed a late birdie to match the card.
The other Irish player in the field Damien McGrane shot a disappointing 75.
Recent Joborg Open runner-up Wallie Coetsee and Brett Rumford are a stroke off the pace after 64s while France's Raphael Jacquelin is among four players on 65.