I'm playing against animals, jokes Els after Colsaerts rocket

DURBAN (REUTERS) - Four-times major winner Ernie Els got his first close-up view of the world's longest professional hitter Nicolas Colsaerts at the Volvo Golf Champions on Thursday and the 43-year-old was stunned by his Belgian playing partner's power.

"They should put a plaque down. I was coming from a different zip code and I've got to compete against these animals," joked Els after the first round in Durban.

Colsaerts led the driving distances on the European and Professional Golfers Association (PGA) tours in 2012 with a staggering average of 318.6 yards, ranking over three yards ahead of United States (US) Masters champion Bubba Watson.

"I've been coming here since 1986 I think and I've never seen a ball there - nobody has," said Els of the European Ryder Cup player's booming 419-yard drive at the downwind par-five third.

Els had the last laugh, though, carding a four-under 68 against the 73 of Colsaerts to share second place behind Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee (65).

"It was my first time and I loved playing with him. I've played with Bubba and (Dustin) Johnson and these guys just bomb it 40 yards further than any of us," added British Open champion Els.

"It's quite exciting when they take their drivers out. These guys hit it in places you've never seen before."

Colsaerts, nicknamed the 'Belgian Bomber' and the 'Muscles from Brussels', became the first player from his country to feature in the Ryder Cup last year when Europe scored a memorable comeback win over the US.

The 30-year-old is to play mainly on the US PGA Tour in 2013.

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