CHAMP: Ernie Els fires 62 to grab Principal Charity Classic lead

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“The Big Easy” certainly made golf look easy Friday, as Ernie Els birdied 10 holes during a 10-under-par 62 to take the first-round lead at the Principal Charity Classic at Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa.

The sterling round marked the South African’s career-low score on the PGA Tour Champions circuit and tied the tournament record.

“Listen, you shoot 62, you should have a smile on your face,” Els said. “So I’m happy obviously, things went my way. I hit it quite well and obviously made a lot of putts. So just one of those rounds that you just want to keep going kind of a thing.”

Els has only a two-shot lead entering the weekend. Defending champ Stephen Ames of Canada, Ricardo Gonzalez of Argentina and Vijay Singh of Fiji shot 8-under 64 to open the tournament.

Else went out in 6-under 30 after birdies on five of his last six holes on the front nine, punctuating the spree with a birdie at the par-3 ninth. He added four more coming in and would have broken the tournament record with a birdie at No. 18, where he settled for par.

The former World No. 1 felt it coming after tying for third at the Regions Tradition and tying for sixth at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, both majors, in his past two starts.

“Yeah, I’ve been trending in the right direction,” Els said. “Started hitting the ball nicely the last couple weeks that I played, (the Regions Tradition) was nice and obviously last week (at the Senior PGA) was good, just wanted to keep that going.”

Ames, Gonzalez and Singh joined Els in posting bogey-free rounds. Gonzalez picked up an eagle at his penultimate hole, the par-5 eighth, to skip up the leaderboard.

Tied for fifth at 7-under 65 were Rod Pampling of Australia, Billy Mayfair, Heath Slocum and Rob Labritz.

–Field Level Media

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