Els's global success reaps reward

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The Independent Online

Ernie Els could not add to his Open Championship victory of 2002 but the South African has been named the Asprey Golfer of the Year for the second successive season. Els won the European order of merit for the first time and was also rewarded for his remarkable record around the globe.

After two victories in Hawaii on the US Tour, Els won twice in Australia and before triumphing in Scotland, Switzerland and England. In all he finished in the top-two 10 times worldwide.

Vijay Singh, who won the US money list at the age of 40; the emerging Swede Fredrik Jacobson, who like Els won two of the monthly awards; Darren Clarke and Lee Westwood also figured in the panel's discussion. "It is a wonderful honour to be named Asprey Golfer of the Year for the second successive season," Els said. "Although I didn't win another major, I was delighted to win seven times on three different continents. It is a great thrill to be the European No 1."

Meanwhile, in Adelaide, Peter Senior and Steve Collins shot rounds of eight-under-par 64 to share the lead after the opening round of the Australian PGA championship. Senior hit nine birdies and a bogey while Collins sunk eight birdies in a flawless round at Coolum on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.

Rod Pampling birdied each of the last four holes to finish in third place with a 65, one shot clear of Martin Doyle, who was alone in fourth place after a 66. A group of eight players, including the former world No 1 Greg Norman - who had the former tennis world No 1 Lleyton Hewitt carrying his bag, entered the clubhouse a shot back at five-under-par. Last year's joint winner Peter Lonard and last weekend's Australian Masters runner-up, Adam Scott, were in a group of eight at four-under-par.

Norman made a slow start, parring his first seven holes before a late run saw him climb the leaderboard. The twice British Open champion, who has not won a tournament for five years, made his own club selection and marked his own yardage as Hewitt caddied for him.

Norman brought his regular caddy, Tony Navarro, with him to Australia but agreed to let Hewitt carry his bags after a request from the former US Open and Wimbledon champion.

"He's a sportsman, he never got in the way today and he knew exactly what he was doing," Norman said.

AUSTRALIAN PGA CHAMPIONSHIP (Hyatt Coolum Resort, Queensland) Leading first round scores (Aus unless stated): 64 P Senior, S Collins. 65 R Pampling. 66 M Doyle. 67 C Parry, M Ecob, W Ormsby, J Nilsson (Swe), N O'Hern, E Stedman, J Sutherland. 68 S Gardiner, G Dodd, P Lonard, Adam Scott, J Ogilvie (US), P O'Malley, S Bowditch. Selected: 69 J Van de Velde (Fr). 70 Z Scotland (GB). 73 M Hazelden (GB).76 J Riley (GB). 77 C Lee (GB).

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