BMW SA Open host Ernie Els opened his 30th season as a professional with a one under par 71, writes WADE PRETORIUS at Glendower.
The Big Easy rallied well after two bogeys in his first three holes left him a little behind the pace. A birdie on his eighth hole, after settling for 5s on the par 5s, helped him turned in 37.
Els saw his putt on the 10th hang agonisingly out on the left but got another red number on the par 5 11th. He made another 2 at the 15th, dropped a shot on 16 but rebounded with another birdie on his penultimate hole. Unfortunately for the packed gallery following his group – which included Trevor Immelman (80) and Mike Weir (73), his 12 foot for birdie on the last did not drop.
‘I was hoping for a little bit more,’ Els said after his round. ‘I was a rusty this morning and hit some funny looking shots.’
Some of that was down to taking new equipment into the event.
‘I’m trying out some new stuff and you can practise as much as you want but when you get under the gun that’s when you really see where you are.’
‘So after being a bit out of sorts at the start, I got it going a bit and got into a good rhythm. 71 is what it is but it should’ve been better. My putting feels really good even if I did miss some good opportunities. All in all, after my start, I have to be happy with my round.’
‘It’s always great to be playing at home in front of the home crowds. The older you get, the more you appreciate it. When I was younger and winning a lot out here, you do appreciate it but it’s different when you get older.’
Els would like the European Tour to have a look at the scheduling of the South African co-sanctioned swing which saw the Joburg Open played in December and the Tshwane Open is set for March.
‘We have to get the schedule sorted out so that we can play more events back to back down here in SA. It’s great to be back.’
Chase Koepka, brother of US Open champion Brooks Koepka, is the early leader after a superb 65 put him ahead of England’s Chris Paisley as the early starters made the most of the calm conditions and pristine putting surfaces.
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