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Archive for Friday, February 14, 2003

Els leads Johnnie Walker

February 14, 2003

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— Ernie Els roared to the top of yet another leaderboard Thursday, shooting an 8-under-par 64 to take a one-stroke lead in the Johnnie Walker Classic.

The South African star, seeking his fourth victory of the year, had thoughts about breaking 60 after playing his first nine holes at 7-under 29 and reaching 8 under with a birdie on No. 1.

"When I birdied No. 1, my 10th hole, to move to 8 under, I must admit I was thinking some silly stuff there," Els said. "It was just for a split second, and I came down to earth on 11, making bogey there. That kind of settled all those silly thoughts."

The 64 was just a stroke off the course record set last year by compatriot Retief Goosen en route to his victory on the Lake Karrinyup Country Club layout.

England's David Lynn opened with a 65, Australia's Terry Price followed with a 66, and Wales' Ian Woosnam was another stroke back along with Ireland's Paul McGinley and Australians Peter O'Malley, Chris Downes and Brett Rumford.

Els spent last week in vacationing in Bali after overcoming a 10-stroke deficit in the final two rounds to successfully defend his Heineken Classic title at Royal Melbourne.

Els had an eagle, five birdies and a par on his first seven holes to reach 7 under. After finishing the back nine with two pars, he reached 8 under with the birdie on No. 1, but struggled on the final eight holes, offsetting two birdies with two bogeys.

"I had a dream start to my round to birdie my first three holes," Els said. "I was in the groove and I hit some really good putts and played a beautiful first nine."

Spain's Sergio Garcia shot a 74, two days after injuring a hamstring.

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