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Good memories for Ernie Els of TPC of Europe

Ernie Els is banking on another fast start when he tees off in the first round of the Tour Players' Championship of Europe (TPC) at St Leon-Rot, near Heidelberg, in Germany on Thursday.

The South African world number three has carded an opening 66 the last two times he has played in the lucrative European Tour event.

"I've only played this tournament twice in the last five years or so, most recently in 2001, and both times I started with a first round 66," Els said on his official website.

"I'll take that any day, thank you very much!"

The three-times major winner, who heads a strong field for the event which offers three million euros ($3.59 million) in prize money, expects his game to be a little sharper than it was at last week's Byron Nelson Championship on the PGA Tour.

"It's not easy getting back into the swing of tournament golf after a three-week break," said the 34-year-old, who tied for seventh at the Byron Nelson after closing scores of 66 and 67.

"You never quite know how sharp your game is going to be, so on balance I was fairly satisfied with my performance at the Byron Nelson, especially at the weekend.

"This week is a big money event, with 500,000 euros going to the winner. It'll be great to get to Sunday afternoon right in the thick of the action.

"I'd expect my game to at least be a bit sharper all round, compared to last week."

Since placing second behind Phil Mickelson at last month's U.S. Masters, Els has played just two events, tying for third at the MCI Heritage in the United States before producing another top-10 finish on Sunday.

In Germany, his challengers will include compatriot Retief Goosen, defending champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland, former world number one Nick Price of Zimbabwe and American Ben Curtis, the British Open champion.

World number one Tiger Woods, winner of the event three times in the last five years, pulled out in February, citing private reasons for his decision not to come to Germany.

The 28-year-old American is expected to marry his Swedish partner Elin Nordegren later this year.

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