After a morning which was plagued by heavy mist and fog at all three courses (St. Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns), several of the worlds best golfers took to the links with serious intent on a first-place prize valued at approximately $800,000.
Els, playing Carnoustie with his father as an amateur partner, did nearly all his damage on the backside of the course, cashing in six birdies in a row from the 10th through the 15th.
His score was seven strokes better than any of his rounds from 1999, when Carnoustie played host to the Open Championship, won by Paul Lawrie.
Tied with Els on Day 1 was his 24-year-old countryman Sandys.
Sandys score was posted at St. Andrews, and might have been even better, had it not been for two bogeys which offset his nine birdies on the day.
Behind the two at days end were Peter Fowler (Kingsbarns), Ricardo Gonzalez (St. Andrews) and Jonathan Lomas (St. Andrews), all of whom posted 5-under 67s.
They were joined by six other golfers who were at the 5-under mark when play was officially halted for the day because of darkness.
Meanwhile, American Brett Quigley headlined a group of six players who finished their rounds Thursday with 4-under 68s.
Quigley, a Buy.Com Tour product who has made headlines this year with five top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, including a second-place showing at the Greater Greensboro Classic, made six birdies against two bogies at St. Andrews for his score.
Justin Rose, Retief Goosen and Paul Casey were three other notable players who finished up with 69s.
The first round is scheduled to resume Friday morning, with the second round beginning thereafter.
Click Here for Full Field Scores from the Dunhill Links Championship.