Ernie Els’ (pictured by Getty Images) debut in the Hong Kong Open got off to a fine start as the big South African posted an opening score of four under par 66 at the Hong Kong Golf to lie just two shots behind the first round leader, Jyoti Randhawa.
Despite turning in two under par, Els, who will celebrate his 45th birthday tomorrow (Friday), was the first to admit he did not strike the ball well during his opening nine holes, but he found his mojo on the Hong Kong Golf Club’s back nine and started to play more like a man who has won four Major Championships and a total of 67 times around the world.
“If they had the cameras with us on the front nine, you’d have thought I was a seven handicap!” laughed Els. “But pulled it together and played much better on the back nine.
“But it really doesn’t matter where you are now. You want to have a good round the first day because it’s easy to shoot yourself out of it.
“That is the pressure of the opening round but if you can make a solid start like I did then you take it from there. It’s like a session in cricket. You take the session and do as best as you can, and then it all happens on Sunday afternoon.
“I got a really nice tour of the clubhouse here this morning from the Captain and saw the list of past champions of this event. It’s a who’s who of golf and it would be great to join them but I don’t even want to think about that for the moment. Let’s talk about trying to get a good round tomorrow and take it from there.”
While Els endured an up and down day on the greens, Randhawa putted like a God, taking just 23 strokes with the short stick to charge into the first round lead on six under, one better than Angelo Que of the Philippines one shot back and then Els and another eight players on four under including in-form Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts who finished second in last week’s Portugal Masters.
The Indian, an eight-time winner on the Asian Tour, is rebuilding his swing as he enters what he hopes will be an exciting new chapter in his career.
“For me, it’s really awesome to get off to such a good start because I’ve been playing decent in the last few weeks but haven’t been able to put up a good number,” said Randhawa.
“Today I really putted my heart out, so I’m really happy with the way it went, and I’m glad I got the pace on the greens right.
“I’ve had some decent finishes on the Asian Tour, and I am really just trying to get four rounds together. Hopefully this week, if I can do that, it will be great. I’m very happy with the way I played today and happy with how the new swing is working.”
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jiménez’s bid to win a record fifth Hong Kong Open was adversely effected by a bout of suspected food poisoning. The Spaniard struggled through his morning round and ended the first round on two over par.
Round One Golf Scores:
64 J Randhawa (Ind);
65 A Que (Phi);
66 N Colsaerts (Bel); N Elvira (Esp); R Jacquelin (Fra); E Els (RSA); B Seuk-Hyun (Kor); J Kruger (RSA); L Wei-Chih (Tpe); J Heath (Eng); D Huizing (Ned);
67 J Quesne (Fra); M Foster (Eng); S Cyr (USA); R Santos (Por); R Karlberg (Swe); P Whiteford (Sco); M Both (Aus); A Groom (Aus); S Hend (Aus); G Bourdy (Fra); S Kim (Kor); C Kim (USA); M Fraser (Aus); D Chia (Mas); W Ormsby (Aus);
68 U Park (Aus); L Slattery (Eng); A Otaegui (Esp); M Perera (Sri); S Kapur (Ind); C Nirat (Tha); D Lipsky (USA); R Gangjee (Ind); A Wall (Eng); E De La Riva (Esp); J Knutzon (USA); C Smith (Aus); J Colomo (Esp); S Manley (Wal); S Benson (Eng); M Joong-Kyung (Kor); J Doherty (Sco);
69 T Wiratchant (Tha); D McGrane (Irl); A Hartø (Den); K Phelan (Irl); S Chawrasia (Ind); M Stieger (Aus); S Webster (Eng); J McLeary (Sco); N Fung (Mas); L Chih-Bing (Sin); M Korhonen (Fin); J Janewattananond (Tha); V Riu (Fra); D Im (USA); Z Scotland (Eng); A Forsyth (Sco); A Da Silva (Bra); S Walker (Eng); L Bjerregaard (Den); P Junhasavasdikul (Tha);
70 C Wi (Kor); P Pittayarat (Tha); A Lascuna (Phi); J Hansen (Den); T Tang (Hkg); L Sung (Kor); L Wen-Chong (Chn); P Lawrie (Irl); B Henson (USA); A Pavan (Ita); J Elson (Eng); D Drysdale (Sco); J Higginbottom (Aus); R Bland (Eng); Z Lianwei (Chn); M Nixon (Eng); A Vongvanij (Tha); R Staunton (am) (Hkg); L Yanwei (Chn);
71 M Crespi (Ita); A Dodt (Aus); L In-Woo (Kor); S Jamieson (Sco); S Kjeldsen (Den); P Peterson (USA); P Archer (Eng); G Charoenkul (Tha); M Mamat (Sin); D Papadatos (Aus); T Lewis (Eng); T Chi-Huang (Tpe); J Parry (Eng); J Morrison (Eng); C Shih-Chang (Tpe); C Lee (Sco); B Easton (RSA); C Kumar (Ind); S Lewton (Eng); P Meesawat (Tha);
72 M Rominger (Sui); J Walters (RSA); J Granberg (Fin); M Lundberg (Swe); C Phadungsil (Tha); W Jeung-Hun (Kor); J Lara (Esp); M Jiménez (Esp); K Aphibarnrat (Tha); B Rumford (Aus); A Kang (USA); S Mizuno (am) (Hkg);
73 S Brazel (Aus); J Stewart (Hkg); B Ruangkit (Tha); P Waring (Eng); B Paolini (USA); S Yates (Sco); R Gonzalez (Arg); F Andersson Hed (Swe); R Beem (USA); A Gee (Eng); J Singh (Ind); R Khan (Ind); R Lee (Can); S Wakefield (Eng); K Pratt (Aus);
74 H Rai (Ind); C Plaphol (Tha); W Choy (Hkg); C Pigem (Esp); S Hansen (Den); J Dantorp (Swe); W Woon Man (Hkg); S Barr (Aus); M Regan Wong (am) (Hkg);
75 M Griffin (Aus); L Wen-Tang (Tpe); S Singh (Ind); A Lahiri (Ind); K Gi-Whan (Kor); L Wen-Teh (Tpe);
76 Y Yang (Kor); E Salvador (Phi); A Saddier (Fra); C Del Moral (Esp); R Derksen (Ned); N Tantipokhakul (Tha); R Kakko (Fin);
77 L Martin (Hkg);
78 S Hak (Hkg);
79 K Sung-Hoon (Kor); N Lemke (Swe); D Williams (am) (Hkg);
Source: European Tour