Ernie Els ignored downpours at Durban Country Club on Thursday and scored seven birdies during the first round of Volvo Golf Champions, moving into second at the Â2-million event.
ÂTo start the new year off with a birdie and make a long putt on the second hole, you’re basically playing to the back of the Cup, and I thought, here we go. It’s a tough day so I’m just pleased to be able to sit here and see what happens the next few days,Â he said.
The Big Easy won the SA Open Championship at Durban CC in 2010 after reaching a massive 25-under-par total. He started Thursday in much the same fashion and carded three consecutive birdies, but the wind bit back on the fourth, where he made a double.
ÂI had an unbelievable start. I was in between two clubs on fourth tee and I was going to hit a 6 iron and I went to a 5 iron and I basically just made a bad swing on top of the ball. And then I didn’t have much of a second shot. I played quite a nice second shot, just stuck it on the green and I hit a putt and thought it was going to be very fast and it wasn’t, and five, six feet past and a three-putt, so that wasn’t great. After such a great start to give shots back like that wasn’t good,Â he said.
The breeze wouldnÂt let him make a mockery of ÂThe Grand Old LadyÂ and Els was forced slow his charge and tackle the tight lines that make the course difficult in breezy conditions. The deceleration didnÂt stop The Open Champion, who carded a further four birdies during the day, two of which came around the turn.
ÂYeah, the wind, it makes the golf course play what it is. It can be a tough golf course and if the weather conditions come, it’s almost like a links course. When it’s very calm, you can kill it and then when the wind comes itÂs very different. Hopefully this weather comes through that makes the first five holes very difficult. I don’t mind,Â he said.
Els made his final birdie of the day at 18 before signing for 68, which put him three strokes shy of round one leader Thongchai Jaidee. It was the ThaiÂs first competitive round in South Africa, yet it never showed on Thursday as he carded eight birdies and a lone drop at the 17th for a seven-under-par 65.
ÂVery, very exciting to come here because I’ve never been to South Africa before. First time in my life. I think very good round and very good putting. I never had good putts like this before at the start of the season. First time, first year, first stop for 2013, yeah – make it 7 under for the first start!Â Said Jaidee.
After a rocky start, Louis Oosthuizen managed to steady himself over the second loop. He came home in 33 after spattering the card with red and blue numbers. His round that contained just eight pars, yet King Louis came out on the right side of par and joined Els in a share of second.
ÂIt was shaky all around. Starting off with the first five holes downwind, I didn’t take my opportunities for a few birdies, but immediately made bogeys,Â said Oosthuizen.
ÂI just got to the 12th tee and decided to shorten the swing a little, don’t try anything funny really and just hit the center of the green and give myself putts. I made two nice putts for birdies and a few putts for pars, as well.Â