Ernie Els finished the first round of the Open Championship with a good feeling on Thursday at Royal Lytham and St Annes, and his three-under-par 67 left him three shots adrift of leader Adam Scott.
But better than that, it was the sense of confidence that he brought to his game, and that realised six birdies Â a creditable haul on a course that everyone was expecting to be more punitive.
ÂI was a little bit tight, you know,Â he said, Âbecause itÂs such a big day and you donÂt want to play yourself out of it.Â
And he didnÂt, even though there were three bogeys on his card too. ÂI feel good this week,Â he said. ÂI really feel my ball-striking is as good as itÂs been for quite some time, and my putting has really come around. I missed a lot of putts out there today but the speed and the lines Â IÂm seeing that really nicely. So if I can keep that same kind of feel going, I think I could run close here this week.Â
HeÂs run close at Royal Lytham before, with a share of second in 1996 and a share of third in 2001.
He got his opening score on the board in the most benign of the conditions of the day, as the morning played itself out under partly cloudy skies and little or no wind.
That was the story behind ScottÂs round too, and he had a superb eight birdies on his card, and just two bogeys.
His six-under-par 64 led Paul Lawrie, Zach Johnson and Nicolas Colsaerts by one. Lawrie and Johnson went out in the morning, and ColsaertsÂ 65 was a the best effort in afternoon, which included an eagle two on the second.
Brandt Snedeker also had a superb round in the afternoon, and his four birdies with no bogeys saw him alone in fifth at the end of the opening day.
Els was in a share of sixth with a host of players who Â if they keep it up Â will make for some tasty golf after the cut: Those players were Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker, Peter Hanson and the impressive Japan Tour player Toshinori Muto.
Next best of the South Africans were Thomas Aiken and JbeÂ Kruger on two-under, both of whom had two bogeys on their cards.
Sunshine Tour veteran Adilson Da Silva did what he does best, and kept is straight for his one-under, and a share of 22nd with Charl Schwartzel and Richard Sterne.
Retief Goosen had some superb moments Â notably a wonderful approach on 16 which set up an easy birdie Â in his even-par 70 for a share of 37th with the likes of Padraig Harrington and world number one Luke Donald.
Garth Mulroy was one of 43 players on one-over par, while 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen had an indifferent round for his two-over.
Branden Grace managed just a single birdie in his three-over, and George Coetzee had three bogeys and a double in his four-over Â a total he shared with Trevor Immelman and Andrew Georgiou.
Tim Clark and Grant Veenstra will have a lot of work to do in the second round if they are to make the cut: Clark, a two-time SA Open champion, finished six-over, while Veenstra, who won the International Final Qualifier Africa in Johannesburg in January, struggled to a seven-over 77.