Ernie off to a good start

Ernie Els opened the Open with a solid 71 to hold a share of 11th after round one of the $5,000,000 event at Cordevalle Golf Club on Thursday.

An early drop did little to upset the Big Easy, whose steady opening round of two-under-par sets him two strokes back from a four-way tie for first place.

“I kind of kept it together, you know, in the morning stuff, just a little rainy, a little cold, and the ball wasn’t going anywhere. So it was nice to just kind of hang around and I had a nice finish,” said Els, who was pleased with his round despite tough conditions.

Els carded the lone drop of his round at the second hole. His tee shot went into the left and he eventually made the green in three, and he was left to two-putt for bogey on the par four.

Yet for the first time since switching to a belly putter Els found his putting stroke on form, and he carded birdies at the sixth and ninth before making the turn at one-under.

Of the belly putter, Els said “getting into the same position every time has been difficult, and I’m starting to feel it now.” He would play a calm back nine, which involved eight pars and a solitary birdie on the 15th for his final score of two-under.

Trevor Immelman also had a steady round and holds a share of 25th at one-under-par.

Further afield are Louis Oosthuizen at level par and Rory Sabbatini at one-over.

Els has struggled with his putting throughout the season, but yesterday’s score was a good sign that he is once again feeling comfortable on the green.

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