PERTH: South Africa’s world number two Ernie Els scorched to a one-shot lead after the first round of the Johnnie Walker Classic yesterday.
Els, 33, fired an eight-under 64 at Lake Karrinyup Country Club in a superb start to his bid to extend his record of five wins in his past seven starts.
He was followed home by 29-year-old Englishman David Lynn, continuing the good form he displayed in the Heineken Classic in Melbourne two weeks ago when he was fourth.
Australian Terry Price was in third place, one shot further back, on 66.
Five players shared fourth place – Welshman Ian Woosnam, Ireland's Paul McGinley and Australians Chris Downes, Peter O’Malley and Brett Rumford – on 67.
It was not a happy day for tournament champion Retief Goosen, of South Africa, who finished way back in equal 58th position, even with the card.
Spain’s strongly fancied world number four Sergio Garcia fared even worse, finishing equal 108th, two over the card.
Els, fourth in this tournament on the same course last year, was happy with his start.
“You cannot ask for much better,” he said. “I am very pleased.
“I was really in the groove this morning, and hit some very good putts in playing a beautiful first nine for a total of 29.
“I was up and down for a while before coming in strongly. All in all, it was a very nice day.
“I would say the first nine today was as well as I have played in all the weeks down here. Everything felt comfortable.”
Els said that after completing the first nine holes in 29 – seven-under par – he had thoughts of breaking 60 on a course with a 63-stroke record.
“When you have a run like that, you start thinking other things. It is probably not the right thing to think about, but I let myself wander.”
Els hit an eagle and eight birdies in his withering display on a course he described as “a lot more friendly than last year”.
“That is a big change this year,” he said. “The greens are a lot different from last year. Then, the way the course played, it was almost like a major championship for me.”
Els’ recent purple streak began when he won the World Match Play in October.
Then came victories in the Nedbank Challenge at South Africa’s Sun City and in two US PGA Tour events – the Mercedes Championship and the Sony Open, both in Hawaii.
After being runner-up to China’s Zhang Lianwei in the Caltex Masters in Singapore, Els returned to number one in the Heineken Classic. – AFP