Els' new posture thrives in the heat

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Ernie Els was moderately satisfied after hitting a five-under-par 67 to claim a share of the lead in the Asian Open here yesterday.

Ernie Els was moderately satisfied after hitting a five-under-par 67 to claim a share of the lead in the Asian Open here yesterday.

The South African hit six birdies and one bogey in sweltering conditions to join six other players at the top of the leaderboard. The Frenchmen Jean Van de Velde and Raphael Jacquelin, Ireland's Peter Lawrie, England's Simon Wakefield, New Zealand's Eddie Lee and the Australian Larry Austin also recorded rounds of 67.

Colin Montgomerie needed to birdie two of his last three holes to post a one-over-par 73, while Nick Faldo had 16 pars, one birdie and one bogey in a 72. Luke Donald, third on his Masters debut at Augusta earlier this month, returned a 70 while Paul Casey recorded a roller-coaster 73 with four birdies and five bogeys.

Els has been working on changes to his posture since a disappointing Masters, and said it is still a work in progress despite finishing sixth in Beijing last week.

"I still look at the pictures David Leadbetter sent me and I spoke to him on the phone so we are on the same page," Els said. "I know when I'm doing it right, the ball just feels right off the club face and goes in the right direction. You can't start pushing it too much in the first round but I'm looking forward to the rest of the week now. It's very close to getting an eight out of 10."

Van de Velde has been plagued by a knee injury for more than two years and has undergone two bouts of surgery. He made several attempts to return to the tour on a medical exemption but missed the cut in eight out of 14 tournaments and was in too much pain to attempt to earn his card at qualifying school. As a result the popular Frenchman has to rely on invites.

"I don't feel comfortable asking for favours but that's where I am right now,"he said. "I haven't only made enemies, it seems, and I truly appreciate the people helping me. I was going to enter the tour school but I could hardly walk, so sadly I have to beg.

"I am not putting pressure on myself, I am just concentrating on trying to play. Mind you, I say that and tomorrow I might be choking like a dog!"

Asian Open (Shanghai) Leading first-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 67 J Van de Velde (Fr), L Austin (Aus), R Jacquelin (Fr), P Lawrie, E Lee (NZ), S Wakefield, E Els (SA). 69 C Rodiles (Sp), R Sterne (SA), J Milkha Singh (Ind), S Hansen (Den). 70 J Kingston (SA), C Hanell (Swe), A Hansen (Den), D Park, Sung-Man Lee (Kor), Lian-Wei Zhang (China), M A Jimenez (Sp), J Randhawa (Ind), S Dyson, P Sjoland (Swe), J-F Lucquin (Fr), P O'Malley (Aus), K Felton (Aus), C Cevaer (Fr), M Foster, M Both (Aus), Wen-Chong Liang (Chn), L Donald.

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