Defending champ Ernie calm after Doral storm

Defending champion Ernie Els was able to play only 11 holes before darkness descended on the storm-interrupted opening day of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at TPC Blue Monster at Doral, Florida.

But the Big Easy kept it as calm as the weather became after a storm packing 80 kilometre-an-hour gusts toppled two TV towers, uprooted 17 young palm trees and sent the monster scoreboard at the 18th hole crashing to the ground.

Els made three birdies in his 11 holes, after he opened with two in succession on the first and second, and he was five off the hot pace set by Hunter Mahan who was seven-under, also through 11.

He wasn’t the leading South African: That honour belonged to Thomas Aiken, who was four-under through 14. He too opened with successive birdies in one and two, but bogeys on four and 13 hampered his charge for the top of the leaderboard. However, six birdies kept him in contention.

Retief Goosen was on three-under through 16, level with Els.

Charl Schwartzel, runner-up behind Els last year, was on two-under through nine, and, drawn with him, Open champion Louis Oosthuizen was on one-under.

Rory Sabbatini, winner of last week’s Honda Classic, was so desperate to finish his round that he ran up to the eighth green to putt out while his playing partners remained in the fairway. Then he raced to the ninth tee, and as the group ahead was walking to the par-three green, Sabbatini hit his tee shot.

The horn sounded to stop play a few minutes later. When play is suspended by darkness, players have the option to finish the hole. Because Sabbatini already had teed off on the ninth, the rest of the group was able to finish the round. He carded a two-over 74.

Tim Clark was yet to go off with Ben Crane and Bubba Watson.

The group with the top three players in the world fared well: World number one Martin Kaymer and number three Luke Donald were on five-under through 10, while former world number one Lee Westwood was on four-under.

Westwood’s predecessor Tiger Woods was on one-under through 15.

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