It was all happening at the Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia emerged from a Sunday thriller with Joost Luiten to claim his third win of 2017...
Farewell to Augusta for Ernie
Much like Greg Norman it seems faintly ludicrous that Ernie Els doesn’t own at least one green jacket but, as things stand, this looks like being the South African’s 23rd and likely final trip to Augusta as a player.
Els stands 404th in the world and his five-year exemption thanks to his Open win at Lytham runs out this year. As such Els, with his three top fives and six top 10s and that crushing defeat by Phil Mickelson in 2004, plans on having a memorable week. He has rented a second house for family and friends this week.
“I’ve put a lot of energy into that event and that’s why after 22 times there, I’m not really looking at going to win,” he said. “I’m hoping to have a nice week and if I can play the four rounds that’ll be great and that’ll be that. A lot of guys have never had the opportunity to have a chance to win and I’ve had a couple of chances to win. So I knew how that felt. It didn’t quite go my way. I just want to have a good week.”
Els’ first trip to Augusta in 1994 finished in a tie for eighth and it seemed then that this was the major for him.
“I played with [Ben] Crenshaw in the third round and shot 67 with him. He was excited for me and we chatted afterwards. He said how many times I was going to win it. As it happened, it never kind of blossomed. I think I used to put too much pressure on myself around Augusta. You have to be a little loose and play the shots. I was always a little bit tight. You have to let the course come to you.”
As for those putting yips of 12 months ago, Els, as ever, faced the question full on.
“You play this game long enough, you are going to embarrass yourself a couple of times,” Els added. “That was one of them. I don’t think about it too much. I’ve moved on from there. My stats say I’ve moved on. It was just a blip. I worked on something very new, very different. It just went nuts up there.”