Italy's Nino Bertasio and England's Graeme Storm were a shot off the lead on four under, Storm having covered the front nine in 30, just a shot outside the tournament record set a year ago by Masters champion Danny Willett and equalled by eventual victor Wood.
The discrepancy arose on the par-5 12th hole, where Els chipped in from the rough for an apparent eagle. "The scoring is not great, so one under is a decent enough score", said 41-year-old Howell, who won the tournament back in 2006.
They are normally in September but United States officials are keen to move them back a month to avoid clashing with the opening rounds of the National Football League which dominates American sports viewing from September onwards.
"For me, to have played well last week and locked up everything in America has now freed my summer up and meant I can come back and play in some of the big events in Europe, which I'm really looking forward to", said Poulter. They're just tight. It's hard to get the ball in the air with your longer irons so I'm trying to put I put a 2 and 3-iron hybrid in the bag.
"The greens are absolutely as pure as you can find", Els added.
"The greens are so good". I remember talking to his former caddie John McLaren, (who now works with Paul Casey), about the stage of career he's in and I definitely feel like Luke has some renewed passion and excitement for the game.
The £5million renovation programme started just eight days after Chris Wood's victory previous year, with all 18 greens stripped of their old turf and reseeded with a new type of grass.
Twenty-nine bunkers have been removed and four greens, the 8th, 11th, 14th and 16th, have been rebuilt while another five have been revamped. "I just think she was fantastic". So with that in mind I'm hoping for a strong showing from the home boys this week, with Tommy Fleetwood leading my fancies.
Stenson birdied four of his last eight holes after starting with 11 straight pars on just his second appearance in the event in the last seven years, while Lee Westwood carded a 70 on his 24th consecutive appearance.
Several competitors wore black ribbons in tribute to the 22 people killed after the suicide bombing in Manchester earlier this week.