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Page last updated at 10:56 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Els in touch at PGA Tour opener

-6 G Ogilvy (Aus) -5 E Els (SA), K Perry (US), J Wagner (US) -4 D Love (US), S Lowery (US), S O'Hair (US), R Imada (Jpn)
Selected others: level A Scott (Aus), V Singh (Fij)

Ernie Els
Els has won three majors, the first of which was at the 1994 US Open

Former Open champion Ernie Els carded a 68 to stand one shot off the lead after round one of the opening event of the PGA Tour, the Mercedes Championship.

Els was six-under after 11 but dropped a shot at 15 and could not birdie the par-five last at Kapalua, in Hawaii.

Geoff Ogilvy had three birdies on each nine to lead by one, with Kenny Perry and Johnson Wagner also five under.

The event features the PGA Tour winners from 2008, though Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are absent.

Australian Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion, is fresh from winning the PGA Championship in his homeland last month.

At the final hole on the picturesque Plantation Course, he ensured that he would not drop a shot all day with a neat up and down, having found a greenside bunker with his three-iron approach.

"I played three tournaments in five weeks, the end of November, December, and three weeks isn't enough to get rusty," he said.

"And I played really well in Australia up to three weeks ago, and kept playing through the time off I had. I had a week and a half off through Christmas, but I had a few social games and practice.

"So I was playing well before Christmas, so it's not amazingly surprising I'm playing well now."

Els, who has has won only one event since the beginning of the 2005 season, made a fast start in Hawaii.

He fired a four-iron to 15 feet to eagle the fifth and was four-under after six.

But after missing a 10-foot putt to only par the final hole he said: "I feel a little hot under the collar right now.


"I had a good round going. I had a perfect start and I had a birdie putt on 12 to go seven-under," he added, referring to a 20-footer which he missed.

"You want to birdie the par-fives on this golf course," said the 39-year-old, who coasted to victory by eight strokes on this course in 2003, setting a tournament record with a 31-under total of 261.

American stalwart Perry joined Els in a three-way tie for second, with an eagle, five birdies and two bogeys in his round, while Wagner eagled the last for his 68.

FedEx Cup champion Vijay Singh, who will undergo knee surgery following the completion of the tournament, shot an even-par round of 73.

The defending champion is Daniel Chopra, but the Swede had an error-strewn opening day, carding four birdies but also four double bogeys in an 80.

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