Ernie Els (Getty Images)
A superb nine under par 63 handed Ernie Els a one shot lead over a group containing home favourite
Martin Kaymer after a low-scoring opening round at the BMW International Open in Munich.
The South African, tied sixth at Wentworth Club and tied fourth in the US Open Championship on his last two starts, was relieved to be playing in receptive conditions after the immense challenge of Merion last weekend.
“It’s really nice, and just a pleasure to play; not to go through a torture chamber like we did at the US Open, it’s a nice start,” he said.
The Open Champion fired five birdies in an outward 31 after starting at the tenth, then started for home with a 40 foot birdie at the short second, before producing one for the highlight reel at the par five sixth.
Having seen his drive finish in rough
to the right of the fairway and with water guarding the green, Els fired a brilliant wood approach almost 250 yards to within five feet of the cup and holed the subsequent putt.
Els had another eagle putt at the ninth for a share of the course record, but a two-putt birdie still proved good enough for the outright lead.
“It seems like it's really a day of scoring today,” Els continued. “If you shoot a really low one, it's nice. It takes the pressure off the rest of the tournament a little bit.
“Although you're leading, it doesn't really mean much until Sunday, but if you get into the race, so to speak, early on in the tournament, it's nice to be right in the hunt.
“Guys will be shooting low this afternoon and tomorrow morning; so I probably won't be in the lead by the time I tee off. But it's nice to have got a good round under my belt and can start kind of going for Sunday
“I've really been working hard at my game. Especially obviously going into the US Open and really around the PGA at Wentworth, I could feel things were coming around a bit. I had a bit of an iffy year up to now, but I really feel that my swing feels good and my body feels good, touch wood. So I can swing the club, properly.”
Kaymer, the 2008 winner of this event, was one of four players to go round in 64 along with Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen, England’s Matthew Baldwin and Swede Alex Noren.
“In general, the last few months, I haven't had a low round at all, so obviously it's a little bit of a different golf course that we play this week, so there are lots of chances,” said former US PGA Champion Kaymer.
“It's a nice start. The expectations were very high, I put a lot of pressure on myself and obviously it's the only tournament we play in Germany, so very pleased - I'm very happy.
“I just want to put myself in position. It's not so much about really trying to win. I try to put myself in position on Sunday, and then we will see and I think I will have an advantage with the people here and very good support. I had fun today and I had a good group, too, to play with.”
Baldwin, Derksen and Noren were all bogey free in perfect conditions at Golfclub München Eichenried, as they finished the day one ahead of a group containing France’s Alexander Levy and English pair Tom Lewis and Matthew Nixon.
American Ryder Cup star Dustin Johnson was amongst those on six under, as was South African Brandon Stone on his professional debut.
“I drove it well, hit it well. I holed a couple putts but I missed quite a few short ones,” said Johnson.
“Merion was playing really tough, so it's nice to come here where - this golf course, you've still got to play good
golf and hit good shots and get it close to the hole. But it's a lot of fun and there's a lot of birdies out there, I'm happy with where I'm at right now and I'm looking forward to coming back in the morning and playing better.”