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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 10:04 GMT
Els back in the groove
Ernie Els tees off at the first hole during his first round
Els continued where he left off in Melbourne
Thursday's round-up

Johnnie Walker Classic

Ernie Els continued his stunning recent form with an eight-under-par 64 to take the first-round lead in the Johnnie Walker Classic.

The world number two, a winner in four of his last five tournaments, went out in 29 at Perth's Lake Karrinyup Country Club.

Two bogeys on his back nine narrowly saw him miss the course record of 63 set last year by winner Retief Goosen.

Els leads by a stroke from England's David Lynn, who finished at seven under after a bogey-free round.

Leaderboard
-8 Ernie Els (Rsa)
-7 David Lynn (Eng)
-6 Terry Price (Aus)
-5 Chris Downes (Aus)
Paul McGinley (Ire)
Peter O'Malley (Aus)
Ian Woosnam (Wal)
Brett Rumford (Aus)
Sergio Garcia, who recovered from a hamstring strain to join the field, opened with two birdies in the first three holes before a double-bogey six, and finished on two over par.

Starting at the 10th, Els opened with three birdies, and rattled in two more and an eagle to go seven under after seven holes.

He finished his outward nine with two pars for a 29, and moved to eight under with further birdies on the first and third holes.

Those were negated by bogeys at the second and fourth, but Els then birdied the 603-yard seventh before closing with two pars.

"You can't ask for much better than that," Els said. "I am very pleased.

"It was a dream start birdieing the first three holes and I played a beautiful front nine.

"I started thinking some silly stuff out there but came back down to earth on 11 after making a bogey."

Second title?

Els is chasing a second Johnnie Walker title after victory in 1997.

He won his last tournament - the Heineken Classic in Melbourne two weeks ago - by hauling back a 10-stroke deficit in the last two rounds.

Defending champion Goosen, who won by eight strokes last year, was due off later on Thursday.

Welshman Ian Woosnam and Ireland's Paul McGinley are among a group on five under.

Nick Faldo and Justin Rose were among the earlier finishers, a shot back after posting 68s.

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BBC Sport's David Luddy
"It's Els and no-one else at the moment"
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See also:

02 Feb 03 | Golf
13 Feb 03 | Golf
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