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Tuesday, 31 July 2018
Ernie Els  (Getty Images)
Ernie Els (Getty Images)

Ernie Els is looking forward to another first in his long and storied career when he tees it up at this week's Fiji International presented by Fiji Airways.

Following in the footsteps of fellow South African great Gary Player, Els has always been a truly international player, winning 28 titles on the European Tour and multiple times on the US PGA Tour - including in the Pacific in Hawaii - his native Sunshine Tour, the PGA Tour of Australasia, the Asian Tour and the Japan Golf Tour.

His visit to Natadola Bay Golf Club this week is his first time playing in Fiji and he is delighted to be seeing another part of the world in his globetrotting career.

"I've been doing that for the most part of my career, just kind of a natural evolution, isn't it?" he said.

"As a junior when I started to leave South Africa to play in big events, started doing it as a teenager and kept doing it as a pro. Now I'm almost 50 and I'm still doing it.

"It's just where we're from and I think Australians are very similar to us. If you want to get to the big stage, you have to leave home. So it's kind of tough sometimes but that's what we have to do. I've kind of naturally progressed into that role.

"We got here early, got here yesterday morning. I've got my wife and my daughter here and my caddie Casey from the US. Never been to Fiji and I wanted to have a little bit of holiday if it's possible around the golf tournament, so it's great to be here."

Els and local hero Vijay Singh will take a lot of the crowds with them this week, sharing seven Major Championships and both having arrived after a week of links golf.

Singh - who had a hand in the design at Natadola Bay - arrives on home soil from the Senior Open Championship while Els arrives from the Open, although the conditions in Fiji will be very different from those at St Andrews and Carnoustie.

I haven't been the headline act for a while so it's kind of a bit different for me than the last couple of years - Ernie Els

"This is a tropical paradise and everything's green, the topography, everything is beautiful, it's green," said Els. "Just very different golf. Obviously Carnoustie is links and the golf course was running miles and so on but a different part of the world and different vegetation and here we are.

"The trade winds are here, this is the trade wind and it seems like 11.00am on the clock it starts blowing and the course plays well with it. 

"Beautiful views down to the ocean and back. Quite a bit of undulation on the course. I think the wind will keep it fair.

"I haven't been the headline act for a while so it's kind of a bit different for me than the last couple of years. My great friend Vijay, he's the host I guess of the tournament, he's from here. 

"I've always wanted to come and play golf here in Fiji and hopefully we can play together at some point this week."

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Tournament Leaderboard

Pos Player nameNatHolePar
1BHULLAR, GaganjeetIND18-14
2QUAYLE, AnthonyAUS18-13
T3ELS, ErnieRSA18-12
T3CAMPBELL, BenNZL18-12
5FELTON, JarrydAUS18-10
T6SAKSANSIN, PoomTHA18-8

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