“It was a good round today. I played really solidly today and gave myself a lot of chances for birdie, and I took a lot of those chances. I’m very pleased to make a run like I did,” he said.
The 2012 Madeira Islands Open winner made the tricky winds of East London look calm as he racked up an impressive nine birdies around the George Peck-designed course. In Madeira in 2012 he shot a nine-under-par 63 during the final round to win the event, so he was elated to shoot 62 in East London on Thursday and beat his lowest score.
“I made nine-under in Madeira to win the event, but I shot 63 there because the par was 72. Today was definitely one of my best rounds of golf so far,” said the Portuguese 31-year-old.
The only South African within the top five at the close of round one was Garth Mulroy, who shared second alongside Rhys Davies, Lucas Bjerregaard and Richard Bland, two shots behind Santos.
“I am pleased to be up there,” said Mulroy.
“I played okay on my first nine, but only turned one-under. On the second nine I made a few putts and got it going. I think that on the front side of the course there are a few short par fours and with good shots you can make some easy birdies.”
Santos was confident ahead of the second round on Friday, but was determined to not get ahead of himself in the coastal conditions.
“The weather is awesome — warm, but with a breeze. If the wind blows this is a very tough course, but today if you put the ball in the fairway you had the chance to shoot a low round.
“Tomorrow I need to just enjoy another day. I’ll try my best on every shot and see what happens, because it’s difficult to follow up a low round like this with another low one,” he said.
On Thursday 126 players shot par or better, but the wind is due to pick up during the second round on Friday and Santos has certainly given himself a good cushion ahead of the next three days.