British Open champion Ernie Els returned to Asia to shoot a strong opening round of four-under-par 68 and lie two shots off lead at the Indonesian Masters here on Thursday. The big South African wielded the long-putter he is phasing out to sink five birdies,against one “silly” bogey,to lie two shots behind Australia’s Scott Hend and Korea’s Hwang Inn-choon at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club.
“I’ve got to be satisfied with that. Obviously you would like to say it could have been better but I played nicely,” said Els who finished 14th at the Chiangmai Golf Classic in March. “I made a silly mistake on the third hole which was a short par-four. I played with a nice group of guys who played good as well.
“I like playing out here in Asia and the golf courses are nice. I need to get more rounds under my belt and I feel that I’m starting to get better,” said Els,who took a share of the 15th place in the PGA Tour New Orleans Classic on Sunday.
Hend looked in his element playing in the country where he won his first Asian Tour title in 2008 and the big-hitting Australian traded six birdies and an eagle against one double bogey.
“I’m in a good position. The scores are going to be low this week so I’ve got to keep grinding those numbers and add that into a good score,” said the three-times Asian Tour winner.
“The ball is not rolling very far because of how wet it is from the rain last night. We (big hitters) have an advantage over the other guys but you still have to get those putts into the hole,” he said. Korean Hwang used his new putter to birdie four of his closing five holes and Bernd Wiesberger of Austria fired 67 climb to third.
Kapur,Sujjan best Indians
Meanwhile,Shiv Kapur and Sujjan Singh carded two-under 70 each to be tied 21st on the opening day. The Indians were four shots behind the leaders. Kapur and Sujjan apart,only two other Indians returned sub-par rounds,with Rahil Gangjee and Ajeetesh Sandhu carded 71 each to be tied 38th.
Anirban Lahiri and Shankar Das,both 72,were 52nd,while Abhijit Chadha two-under after 16 dropped three shots in last two holes,to score 73 alongside Jyoti Randhawa and Digvijay Singh in tied 73rd place. Himmat Rai and C Muniyappa carded 74 and Chiragh Kumar shot 77.