Els opens with 67 as he bids to make up for no wins in 2014
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Els opens with 67 as he bids to make up for no wins in 2014

Former world number one Ernie Els was without a victory in 2014 but he made a rip-roaring start to the New Year by shooting a five-under 67 in the South African Open first round on Thursday.

The four-times major winner mixed six birdies with a solitary bogey to trail joint leaders Jbe Kruger of South Africa and Briton Andy Sullivan by one stroke at the Glendower Club.

Alongside Els on 67 were his fellow countryman Richard Sterne and Dane Lasse Jensen.

“It was a nice start. I was a little nervous but it was great to play in front of my home crowd,” the 45-year-old Els told reporters.

“I’ve been working hard on my iron shots and I took some yardage off today, tried not to hit them too hard. It worked out well.”

Veteran South African Els, who has been appointed an ambassador for the tournament, won the event five times between 1992 and 2010.

Kruger hit six birdies in a flawless round that he completed after an hour’s delay in mid-afternoon caused by a threat of lightning.

Englishman Sullivan made up for a double bogey at the fifth by eagling the 15th.

The South African Open is the second oldest tournament in professional golf, after the British Open, and is in its 104th year.

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