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  • Volvo Golf Champions, Round One

Els & Oosthuizen start smoothly in Durban

ESPN staff
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Ernie Els was popular among the galleries in Durban © Getty Images
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Volvo Golf Champions leaderboard

Home favourites Louis Oosthuizen and Ernie Els both enjoyed fast starts to the Volvo Golf Champions on Thursday, but it was Thongchai Jaidee who claimed the early lead.

Jaidee, starting the year ranked 80th in the world, began his season in fine fashion - making five birdies on the front nine as he went out in 31, before coming home in 34 to post a seven-under par round of 65 that left him three shots clear of the chasing pack.

That pack was headed by Els and Oosthuizen, as the Open champions past and present compiled 14 birdies between them at Durban Country Club on the way to matching rounds of 68.

That sparkling scoring was let down by some inconsistent shotmaking elsewhere, however, with Oosthuizen making a double-bogey at the fourth and Els slipping to three bogeys - lapses that held both men back from more closely challenging the leader.

"I enjoy the course," Jaidee said afterwards. "You have to think a lot - I hit the driver on only two holes and I put a three-iron in my bag only 15 minutes before we teed off."

Other faster starters in South Africa included Danny Willett, Richie Ramsay and Paul Lawrie - the trio among seven players at three-under, with Padraig Harrington and Francesco Molinari a shot further back.

A number of players will be hoping for better rounds on Friday, however, with Paul Casey and Jose Maria Olazabal part of a group of players that failed to break par with rounds of 74.

Another former Open champion, Darren Clarke, struggled to a three-over par round of 75 - matched by Matteo Manassero and one of the form players of 2012, Branden Grace.

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