Home Sport Ernie Els turns back the clock at The Open

Ernie Els turns back the clock at The Open

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‘I played well overall. Hit it in play and hit good iron shots and played the course the way you should play it. Just felt comfortable.’

South Africa's Ernie Els tees off on the 3rd during day one of The Open at the Old Course, St Andrews
South Africa’s Ernie Els tees off on the 3rd during day one of The Open at the Old Course, St Andrews, July 14, 2022. Picture: Richard Sellers, PA Wire, PA Images, BackpagePix

Johannesburg – Two-time champion golfer of the year Ernie Els turned back the clock as he made it to within a couple strokes of the lead, before settling for a two-under 70 in the first round of The Open Championship at St Andrews on Thursday.

Thriston Lawrence was the best SA player in the field on three-under 69, with American Cameron Young leading on eight-under 64. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy was the closest challenger in second place on six-under 66.

Els – Open champion in 2002 and 2012 – was flying at five-under after 12 holes before he bogeyed 16 and doubled the infamous road hole 17th.

On 17, Els blocked his tee shot way right as his ball ended somewhere in the old course hotel and he had to reload from the tee. From there he did well to drop just two shots, but it was still a solid opening round for the 52-year-old.

“It was good. Obviously just that one hole burning me at the moment. I played good. I putted nice and played good. I just had that one frickin’ tee shot on 17. Anyway, that’s my day,” said Els after his round.

“I played well overall. Hit it in play and hit good iron shots and played the course the way you should play it. Just felt comfortable.

“As I said, just that one shot is going to keep burning me until tomorrow.”

The Open traditionally gives the veterans in the field more of a chance, but Els said his experience didn’t feel like an obvious advantage.

“[It helped] A lot, but still even playing it so many times, you’re still a little unsure of the bounce and so forth. I hit in the bunker on six off the tee, which I don’t think I’ve ever been in, and then obviously what I did on 17.”

Dylan Frittelli was tied alongside Els on two-under 70.

The SA dozen were reduced to 11 as Erik van Rooyen withdrew before the opening round, with a neck injury.

SA scores:

69 – Thriston Lawrence

70 – Ernie Els, Dylan Frittelli

71 – Dean Burmester, Louis Oosthuizen

72 – Garrick Higgo

73 – Christiaan Bezuidenhout

74 – Shaun Norris, Aldrich Potgieter (ama), Justin Harding

77 – Zander Lombard

WD – Erik van Rooyen

@Golfhackno1

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