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Fast-starting Els threatens course record in Munich

ESPN staff
June 20, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »
Ernie Els made a bright start in Germany © Getty Images
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BMW International Open leaderboard

Ernie Els made a blistering start to the BMW International in Munich on Thursday, as he begins to ramp up his preparations for the defence of his Open Championship crown next month.

Els, the four-time major champion, starred on a morning of low scoring at Eichenried Golf Club - picking up a birdie at his final hole to snatch the clubhouse lead at nine-under par, after a round of 63.

"Pretty nice work this morning!" Els noted afterwards.

In total the South African had seven birdies during his opening round, with an eagle three at the 546-yard par-five sixth helping him rise above Englishman Matthew Baldwin, who had earlier posted an eight-under total.

It was an encouraging performance from Els, who will be hopeful of retaining the Claret Jug he won at Royal Lytham last year at Muirfield - the venue where he won his first Open - next month. Els began his day on the tenth, and was three-under by the time he reached the 14th tee after reeling off three successive birdies. Additional red numbers at the 16th and 18th got him to the turn in a mere 31 shots, before a pinpoint iron approach at the 227-yard second continued his forward momentum.

A dramatic eagle at the sixth - firing a 250-yard five-wood approach over water to five-feet from the pin - pushed him to the head of the leaderboard, before he had the chance at a second eagle, and the course record, at the ninth.

His mid-range attempt did not drop, however, as Els settled for another birdie at his 63. He subsequently said it was a relief to be in more 'normal' conditions, after the difficulty of last week's US Open.

"It's like walking out of a torture chamber to a nice parkland course," Els said. "I really felt like I was swinging well at the weekend at Merion, and it was good to take it here."

Elsewhere, Baldwin's 64 was matched by Alex Noren, with a number of other Englishman just one shot further back - including Tom Lewis and Matthew Nixon.

Not everyone found the scoring in Germany so easy, however. While recent BMW PGA Championship winner Matteo Manassero made a solid start with a round of 68, David Lynn will have work to do on Friday if he is to make the cut after beginning with a disappointing 73 - primarily the product of four front nine bogeys.

Sergio Garcia ended the day on one-under as the Spaniard shot a 71, landing five birdies. However, he could have been better placed on the leaderboard as bogeys on the second and 17th holes as well as a double on the 16th cost him.

Martin Kaymer is one shot off Els after the German hit an eight-under 64, while Henrik Stenson is four-under with a round of 68.

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