Els starts 1st senior major with 3-under 69

Ernie Els began the first senior major championship of the year, the Regions Tradition at Greystone Golf & Country Club in Birmingham, Alabama, with a three-under-par 69.

That put him in a share of seventh, three shots behind the leader Darren Clarke, who led by one from Canada’s Stephen Ames and Jerry Kelly of the United States. Alex Cejka of Germany, American Steve Stricker and last week’s PGA Tour Champions winner Mike Weir were in a share of fourth at four-under.

Els, the four-time major champion, started his round on the 10th, and made an eagle three on the par-five 18th after making birdies on 12 and 15. That got him to the turn at four-under, and he moved to five-under with another birdie on the second. But a pair of consecutive bogeys on six and seven saw him slip back the three-under.

For his eagle, Els hit his approach from the fairway to just over 10 feet, he put the slippery right-to-left downhill putt right in the centre of the hole.

The other South Africans in the field, Retief Goosen and David Frost, opened with two-over 74s.

On the PGA Tour, Charl Schwartzel opened slowly with a level-par 71 in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow, as Phil Mickelson carded his best round of the year with his seven-under-par 64. Mickelson, who could have been playing in the senior major, instead strutted his stuff on the regular tour and led Kyoung-Hoon Lee of South Korea and Keegan Bradley by two. Erik van Rooyen was two-over after the first round, and Rory Sabbatini was one-over.

On the Korn Ferry Tour, Tyrone van Aswegen opened the Simmons Bank Open in Nashville, Tennessee, with a four-under-par 68, before the first round was suspended due to lightning. At that point, Stephan Jaeger of Germany and Austin Smotherman of the United States shared the lead at seven-under, having completed their rounds. Dawie van der Walt was four-over through 15 holes.

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