The duo signed for matching six-under-par 66s at The Club at Steyn City in Johannesburg on a day when two home players, Darren Fitchardt and Martin Vorster, set the pace in the DP World Tour and Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned event on 64.
Out in the morning, Hill picked up three shots in his first five holes after starting at the tenth before dropping his only shot of the day at the par-4 18th.
On his inward journey, the Crook of Devon-based player then birdied the second, sixth, seventh and ninth, signing for a card that contained three 2s.
“Yeah, played well,” said Hill afterwards. “Didn’t score as well as I would have liked to on the par-5s (his only birdie on one of those coming at tenth), but I had way more birdies than you would expect on the par-3s so it evened out. It was a good round.”
Hill missed the cut in last week’s SDC Championship, the first leg of a South African double-header, in windy weather at St Francis Links on the Eastern Cape.
“It’s much better,” he said of the opening-day conditions on this occasion. “I’d rather forget Thursday at St Francis. Yeah, it was much nicer to come out in just a breeze, not really that much wind with maybe a ten-yard hurt at the most.
“I like the course and it’s in great condition as well. I putted well on the greens, which I like, and they are at a good pace. I feel comfortable out there and I am looking forward to another few rounds.”
The 2021 Cazoo Classic winner is making just his sixth start since missing most of last season due to a nerve problem. He tied for 13th in the Hero Dubai Desert Classic then made the top 20 again in the Magical Kenya Open.
“I’m hitting it solid and ball-striking is good,” said Hill. “Just need to work on a few woods this afternoon as I mis-hit a couple. But I’m hitting a lot of greens and making some good putts, which is the main thing.”
Ferguson, who finished strongly to record his best finish of the season so far by claiming a share of third spot in the SDC Championship, also signed for seven birdies and one bogey.
Elsewhere, Liam Johnston fired a four-under-par 68 to fare best among four Scots on day one of the Challenge Tour’s Duncan Taylor Black Bull Challenge in Bangalore.
The two-time winner on the circuit carded six birdies to sit a shot ahead of Craig Howie, who opened with a bogey-free effort, while Michael Stewart and Euan Walker signed for 71 and 72 respectively.
Spaniard Manuel Elvira secured the early lead at Karnataka Golf Association after setting a new course record in a professional event with a 63.
On the Asian Tour, solo Scot David Drysdale opened with a one-under 69 to sit just outside the top 30 in the World City Championship at Hong Kong Golf Club, where four spots in the 151st Open are up for grabs.