SUN CITY, South Africa – Ernie Els got pretty much what he expected from his return to competitive golf 4 months after injuring his left knee.

“It felt like my first round back,” said Els, who shot a par 72 Thursday in the Nedbank Challenge. “I hit some funny shots, but my knee stood up very well.”

South African Els, hurt in a boating accident in July, was five shots behind Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland after the opening round.

“It was the good, the bad and the ugly out there,” the two-time U.S. Open champion joked. “But at least I never shot myself out of the tournament.

“I didn’t do well on the scoring holes – nine, 10 and 14 -because I was in the rough too much. But I had to remind myself not to expect too much.”

Clarke shot a 67 to lead American Jim Furyk by one stroke. South Africans Tim Clark and Retief Goosen, and Luke Donald of England were three strokes off the lead at the Gary Player Country Club. Goosen is the defending champion.

Clarke picked up three birdies on the first nine holes and two on the backside. But he thought he could have scored better.

“I had a couple of chances out there,” he said. “But the reality is there are no real let-up holes on this course, so I am happy with 5-under with no bogeys.

“Most of the day, I tried to get the ball on to the fairway and just go from there.”

Furyk kept it together on the opening nine, shooting an even-par 36. But he added four birdies coming home to shoot 32, the lowest nine of the round.Some of the game’s big names struggled.

American Stewart Cink shot a 73, and fellow American Kenny Perry 76. Spaniard Sergio Garcia had a 74.

Turnberry to host 2009 British Open

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -Turnberry in Scotland will host the British Open for the fourth time in 2009.

The 138th edition of the major will be played from July 16-19, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club said Thursday.

Turnberry, a links course on the west coast of Scotland, first hosted the British Open in 1977. That tournament became known as the “Duel in the Sun,” when Tom Watson beat Jack Nicklaus after both halved the 72nd hole with birdies.

Greg Norman won at Turnberry in 1986 and Nick Price won in 1994.

Since that year, the demands of hosting the British Open had “substantially increased,” the R&A said.

“There has never been any doubt that the Open would return to Turnberry, one of our very best links courses,” R&A director of championships David Hill said. “But before reaching that decision we had to be convinced that every aspect of our forward planning process was in place.”

Construction of a new road to the course has been approved and new traffic management implemented, Hill said.

Next year’s British Open will be played at Royal Liverpool, England. In 2007, it will be at Carnoustie, Scotland, and, in 2008, Royal Birkdale, England.

The R&A is the governing body for the sport outside the United States.

AP-ES-12-01-05 0621EST

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