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Thursday, 14 December 2006

Defending champion Retief Goosen of South Africa threw away a commanding lead as he racked up an 11 on the 17th hole of his opening round of the South African Airways Open at Humewood Golf Club in Port Elizabeth.

The World Number Five, who was leading by three shots, twice hit his ball into unplayable areas and after the second occasion he took a drop within two club lengths of where his ball had finished.

However, having dropped the ball it rolled backwards a few centimetres so Goosen picked it up and dropped it again.

He finished with a quadruple-bogey nine on the par five but worse was to follow when, after his round, officials ruled that because the ball had landed within two club lengths
it was in play and Goosen should not have picked it up again.

“By picking the ball up, he needed to replace it to incur only a one-shot penalty. But by dropping it, it became two shots,” said European Tour Referee Andy McFee.

Goosen birdied the 18th to finish with a three under par 69, a rollercoaster round that included two eagles, six birdies, one bogey and, of course, that 11.

Among the beneficiaries of Goosen’s penultimate hole woes was fellow South African Ernie Els, who lost a memorable tussle with Goosen in this event last year.

Els had earlier compiled a round of 67 to share the lead on five under par with compatriot Trevor Immelman, England’s Andrew Raitt and Spain’s Carl Suneson, the latter pair having come through The European Tour Qualifying School last month.

In difficult windy conditions Els, who started on the 10th, went out in one under 36 before birdies on the par four fifth hole, the par three sixth and an eagle on the par five seventh, turned his round.

"Before I went out I would have taken 67 for sure," Els said. "When I went out I wasn't sure what the wind was going to do, but it seemed to blow consistently."

Immelman made eagle in the 350 yard par four ninth, his 18th, by holing a 35 foot putt after driving the green to move to five under.

Suneson, starting on the first, dropped to one over after three holes before birdies at the fourth and seventh saw him turn in even par 35.

He came home in five under 32 after five birdies between the 10th and the 15th holes.

England’s Lee Westwood, who was runner-up at last week’s Alfred Dunhill Championship, continued his fine early season form with a round of 68 to join Sweden’s Patrik Sjöland – another man returning to European Tour golf via the Qualifying School - and South African Des Terblanche in fifth place.

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