“I was standing right next to him and it missed me and it got him,” said playing partner Justin Rose, who carded a six-under-par 66 for the second-best round of the day.
“So they say it's good luck if the birdie manages to sort of land on you. And I guess it was good luck for me, not Ernie today, I'm afraid.”
Els closed with a three-over-par 75 to finish in a tie for 64th, well behind wire-to-wire winner Jason Day.
Rose said Els managed to see the funny side of the incident.
“Yeah, that was kind of a humorous moment to start the day, had us both giggling,” he said. “Had me kind of chuckling under my breath trying to make a two-footer for par.”
Original source: In role reversal, a birdie gets Els