Els close to winning: Bland

2011-10-19 13:26

Johannesburg - Senior professional golfer John Bland believes Ernie Els is close to winning form again, and it will be just a matter of time before he secures more Major titles.

The poor performance of Els' putting has plagued his game over the last year, but Bland said one moment could change the Big Easy's fortunes.

"I always say it's going to take one shot or one putt until it all comes back," Bland said.

"It's a strange game that you go through these slumps.

"You never know what it could be - it could be something small to get him back on track."

Bland, 66, was one of South Africa's best players in his prime, having won twice on the European Tour in the 1980s.

He competed on the European and US senior tours until this season, when he cut down his schedule, and he proved on Tuesday his game remained in good shape after he shot a six-under-par 67 at the Links on Fancourt.

The game in South Africa was in a good state, Bland believed, with a mixture of young players and experienced campaigners competing on the world stage.

"I was lucky enough in my career to play with the greatest players in the world in a 10-year span - Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, [Lee] Trevino, [Tom] Watson, Arnold Palmer, [Nick] Faldo and [Seve] Ballesteros," he said.

"So I think I can say playing with those players puts me in a good position to judge where our country is in terms of talent.

"Seeing Louis [Oosthuizen] winning the Open, and before that Ernie winning his Majors, and also seeing Retief [Goosen] winning his Majors was great."

Els won the last of his three Majors at the Open in 2002, and Goosen lifted the second of his two US Open titles in 2004.

Bland said both players still had the ability to win at the highest level of the game, but he was also pleased with the new crop of SA stars on the global scene.

"I still believe they [Els and Goosen] can win more Majors, but now we've got guys like Louis and Charl Schwartzel leading the way, and let's not forget Trevor Immelman who looks like he's returning to form," he said.

"It's very exciting for me as a senior player to have lived my career playing with the best and now being able to see these new young South Africans playing so well.

"I was very pleased to see that Thomas [Aiken] won this year, and George Coetzee looks like he's going to be a world-beater -- he looks very comfortable on the golf course."

The future of golf in the country was bright, Bland said, with a number children showing real talent and potential.

"Ernie's nephew plays here [at Fancourt] and he's 13 and he just shot one over par the other day on a very tough golf course," he said.

"And that's just an example. I see a number of fantastic youngsters who are 12 and 13 that are very good young players, and where they go from here is up to them."