Els has Augusta on his mind

2010-03-30 08:01

Orlando - Ernie Els had next week's Masters deeply etched in his mind as he put the finishing touches on a two-shot victory at the rain-hit Arnold Palmer Invitational on Monday.

The South African will tee off at Augusta National in Georgia next week as one of the favourites for the opening major of the year, with confidence running sky-high after winning his last two PGA Tour events.

"You try and downplay it, but you do think about it. Today I thought about it on the 72nd hole. I was like: 'Okay, you're standing at Augusta and you've got to hit this hard fade,'" Els told reporters of the Masters after carding a one-under-par 71 at Bay Hill.

"Even though there are different circumstances, you think of shots that you're going to be playing over there.

"You try and have your short game very sharp, and that's what I've been doing," Els said of the special demands made by the heavily contoured, slick greens at Augusta National.

"I hadn't won for such a long time. Now, to be able to feel like I can tee it up and play with these boys, it feels good."

Els, a three-time major champion, ended a two-year title drought on the US circuit with a four-stroke victory at the elite WGC-CA Championship earlier this month at Doral.

On Monday, he sealed his 18th PGA Tour win with an 11-under total of 277 at Bay Hill, surviving a few anxious moments over the last four holes with an impeccable short game.

Above all, though, Els signalled to his peers and fans he is close to the form that lifted him to number one in the world rankings in 1998 and made him a perennial contender at majors.

"I want to make this a special year," said the South African, whose form had dipped in recent seasons, mainly due to his putting. "But I still have a lot of work left and there are a lot of majors left, and that's going to be fun now."

A double US Open champion who also won the British Open in 2002, Els has posted six top-10s at the Masters, including runner-up spots behind Fijian Vijay Singh in 2000 and American left-hander Phil Mickelson in 2004.

Asked whether he felt he was owed a victory at Augusta National, Els replied: "No, I can't say that. In 2004, Phil just played great. He beat me. I didn't beat myself.

"In 2000, I felt I left some shots out there when I finished second to Vijay. Vijay birdied 18 to win by three but it was a lot closer than that.

"I've had a lot of top 10s there and stuff like that but I don't want to say that (I am owed victory). I think I'll jinx myself saying that," Els added with a broad grin.

The Masters runs from April 8-11.


  • John - 2010-03-30 08:11

    Ernie you are da MAN! Nerve racking stuff but Ernie held it together and that shows he will be tough to beat in the Masters. Well done Retief - No1 in top 10 finishes this year. Lets see Ernie and Retief fighting for the title down the home straight at the Masters.

  • Steve - 2010-03-30 08:16

    Ernie you Biscuit!!! Good luck next week!

  • David - 2010-03-30 08:27

    Really enjoyed watching Ernie close this one out. Looks like he has finally got his bmt back.

  • Sorry Ernie! - 2010-03-30 08:35

    Well done Ernie! I am one of those golfers who humbly have to swallow my words after saying on a couple of times that Ernie hasn't got it in him any more. I am glad you proved me wrong. May you continue building on this success and possibly put on that elusive green jacket next Sunday night. Good luck!

  • catrien brand - 2010-03-30 08:41

    We are so proud of Ernie as a Sout African , and hope he will do so at Augusta.

  • James - 2010-03-30 09:10

    Ernie well done. comming back and looking so sharp is an inspires all who suffer in this game. the key, focus and hard work. well done man, SA is currently dominating the world of golf, young and experianced golfers all show what we can do if politics is left out of sport and natural talent allow compete.

  • katman - 2010-03-30 09:26

    Go Ernie. He’s a national treasure – great to watch, always gracious in victory and defeat and a no-nonsense straight talker in interviews. Hope this is his year at Augusta. But let’s not forget Goosen, Schwartzel, Clark and Oosthuizen, who are all in great form too. Bring on the late nights…

  • Andre - 2010-03-30 09:39

    Ernie ! Well done. I am also eating my words ! I thought you were over the hill ! Fantastic job, now go get em at Augusta !

  • Maestro - 2010-03-30 09:54

    Well Done Ernie, I never gave up hope on you, had so many arguments with my friends about you. I felt at times you didn't live up to your talent, but we don't have a clue what is going on in your private life. Also think you were just being the great guy you are and were trying to please too many sponsors and fans by playing in so many countries world wide it simply made it too hard on your body. Staying in the states and concentrating on one tour has made a huge difference. All the best, you are such a shining example for South Africa, all the best to you, Retief, Scharl, Louise, Trevor and Tim! May one of you bring back the Masters. (must say however, I would love nothing more than to see you lift it)

  • Amelam - 2010-03-30 10:05

    Ernie has peaked too soon. The Masters this year is Retief's,

  • Kokocure - 2010-03-30 10:10

    Well done Ernie. Enjpy it while it lasts. Tiger is back and it is known that many golfers are having sleepless nights.

  • Selma - 2010-03-30 11:29

    It is a mental game and no one is stronger mentally than Tiger Woods. My heart is with Ernest but my mind says that Tiger Woods, maybe not at Augusta, but in the near future, will destroy the opposition again. The public is going to welcome him back with open arms and he is going to thrive on the wave of support and understanding and forgiveness.

  • Banana - 2010-03-30 12:13

    Love Ernie who flies the flag on tour - so great to see him in form again...

  • Linki - 2010-03-30 12:46

    So awesome to watch you win again! Retief; Scharl; Louis; Tim et al will have their turn at the majors - you on the other hand deserve the Masters this year and I truly hope you are able to pull it off. All the best to may you be hungry enough to succeed!

  • Dave - 2010-03-30 13:12

    Great stuff Ernie!!, make sure you keep those drives in the fairway. Those wayward teeshots under pressure are going to cost you, wishing you all the best in the Masters and would love to see you wear the Green Jacket.

  • Matt - 2010-03-30 20:29

    What clutch par putts he made over those last 4 holes. The Ernie of the past few years would have missed at least 2 of those, considering the pressure he must have been under. Hopefully his mental game is sharp next week and he doesnt become his own worste enemy coz we all know he has the game to win the green jacket. I aint missing one swing next week - going to be the best major ever.

  • Fanny Merwe - 2010-03-31 16:17

    For me the most seasoned active player born in Africa is Retief Goosen. This is a fact and I invite you all to check it. (Hey Retief, you better put Ernie in his place! I'm betting on you and I need the cash) I agree with Steve that Ernie is a biscuit. Buscuit as in Sea-Biscuit that famous racehorse who never won in Augusta this century.

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