Thursday, 24 May 2012
Ernie Els  (Getty Images)
Ernie Els (Getty Images)
Ernie Els again showed his liking for Wentworth Club’s West Course to set the early pace in the BMW PGA Championship.

The man responsible for toughening up the course two years ago, Els has made further changes since and showed what good scoring was possible.

The 42 year old was off and running with a 12 foot putt at the short second and added further birdies at the fourth, sixth and seventh to turn in a four under par 31.

He was a stroke ahead of fellow South African George Coetzee, Austria's recent winner Bernd Wiesberger and Scot Marc Warren, who in the first group of the day eagled the 531 yard 12th - back as a par five this year.

Rory McIlroy, playing in Europe as World Number One for the first time, did not have to wait that long for an eagle - he made three on the 552 yard fourth.

That followed a bogey on the short second, however, after he had gone over the green and left his chip nine feet short and it continued to be a round of fluctuating fortunes for the 23 year old Northern Irishman. Who was playing with Els.

He birdied the 396 yard seventh to reach two under, but bogeyed the next two. On level par he was part of a group that included third-ranked Lee Westwood.

Beaten in a play-off with Luke Donald a year ago - it cost him the World Number One spot - Westwood double-bogeyed the 465 yard third after going long and left with his approach and three-putting, but came back with birdies at the long fourth and 391 yard eighth.

Donald, trying to join Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie as the only players to make a successful defence of the title, was among the later starters.

Warren birdied the par five last from ten feet to set the target of 68, four under, and said: "Conditions were perfect and it was nice to be out first."

He was in the joint lead for only a few minutes as Els had his fifth birdie on the 12th.

McIlroy, on the other hand, had his third successive bogey at the short tenth, missing from six feet, and then hit his second shot out of bounds on the 12th.

It resulted in a bogey six and at two over he was seven adrift of the man alongside him.

Westwood bogeyed the 11th following a poor drive but almost eagled the next from 30 feet, and with another birdie from ten feet on the 13th climbed to one under.

Ian Poulter came into the picture at three under with birdies on the 11th and 12th, but Australian Andrew Dodt made the biggest sudden impact.

He had five birdies in a row from the second to join Els out in front.

Els holed from 18 feet at the 13th to reach six under, but promptly bogeyed the next two and was in a five-way tie with compatriot Garth Mulroy, Warren, England's Mark Foster and Dodt, who bogeyed the eighth.

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1DONALD, LukeENG18-15
T2LAWRIE, PaulSCO18-11
T2ROSE, JustinENG18-11
4LAWRIE, PeterIRL18-8
5GRACE, BrandenRSA18-7
6STERNE, RichardRSA18-6
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