Arriving a meager 18 hours before his Day 1 match against Greg Kraft, the tournament's No. 1 seed squeezed in a 16-hole practice round before defeating his American counterpart over the same number of holes, 3-and-2.
'I shouldn't have any problems sleeping tonight,' quipped the South African. 'I think the golf I played this morning before the round started helped me, especially getting a feel for the golf course.'
Els will now face Japan's Hidemichi Tanaka, who defeated Bernhard Langer in 19 holes.
Kraft was one of 21 Americans who made the daylong trip to Melbourne, Australia, only to leave with $25,000 and one official round played.
Among the U.S. contingent failing to advance into the second round was second-seeded Hal Sutton.
Battling excruciating back pain and a formidable opponent, Sutton was one-and-done at the Metropolitan Golf Course.
Having injured his lower back prior to arriving Down Under, Sutton saddled up and honored his tournament commitment.
'I'm not a quitter,' Sutton said. 'That's not my style.'
Sutton displayed his style, heroically overcoming a four-down deficit with six holes to play, only to bogey the 21st hole to allow Australian Nick O'Hern to escape with victory.
The left-handed O'Hern is one of five Aussies competing on his home soil this week, and one of four who won his first-round match. Craig Parry, Robert Allenby and Stuart Appleby all joined O'Hern in the second round, while Greg Chalmers fell to fourth-seeded Tom Lehman 2-and-1.
Lehman was one of a dozen Yanks to advance. Justin Leonard, seeded seventh, earned the day's biggest victory, a 6-and-5 triumph over Sweden's Patrik Sjoland. Fellow American Dudley Hart also cruised to a 6-and-5 win at the expense of yet another U.S. player, Skip Kendall.
Hart and Leonard's drubbings prove to be an anomaly on Wednesday. Six of the 32 matches needed sudden death to determine a winner, twice as many as the first round the past two years when the event was contested in Carlsbad, Calif.
In all, 20 of the 32 higher seeds advanced into the second round, guaranteeing them at least $50,000 of the $5-million purse.
Check your customized TGC Locker for first-round match results.