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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 July, 2003, 20:58 GMT 21:58 UK
Els' defence in tatters
Ernie Els
If I want to get back into the tournament I need to do something pretty special

Ernie Els began his Open defence in disappointing style on Thursday, struggling to a first-round 78 to finish 10 shots behind the leader.

The South African failed to find a birdie in his round, in stark contrast to his compatriot Hennie Otto who set the pace with a three-under-par 68.

"Conditions were tough, I've played in conditions like that before but this golf course is really difficult," Els said.

"I had a lot of problems with my putts so I threw a lot of shots away on the greens early in the round."

Els came into the tournament in a rich vein of form after winning last week's Scottish Open but his game was all at sea as he drove wildly off the tee and then missed a succession of putts.

His 78 was his highest-ever round at the Open, but he can find some comfort in his performance at this year's Masters where he opened with a 79 before following with a 66 to eventually finish sixth.

"If I want to get back into the tournament I need to do something pretty special," he said.

"Hopefully, we will get a break in the weather tomorrow morning and I'll try to get my putting touch back.

"If I can finish this event in even par that will be a good effort I guess."

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Els began satisfactorily enough on a notoriously difficult day for scoring with a bogey five at the first.

Four straight pars followed as Els settled into his round but further bogies came at the short sixth, eighth and ninth.

He reached the turn in 40 and saw his round disintegrate further with more dropped shots at the 11th, 13th and 14th to come home with 38.





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