ERNIE ELS is finally back in the winner’s circle after claiming the World Golf Championships $A9.26 million CA Championship by four strokes.
It seems ages since “The Big Easy” has tasted tournament success and it seems the popular South African agrees.
“I’m 40 years old. I’ve had a tough run,” Els said shortly after finishing with a bogey free 66 to finish 18 under par and four strokes ahead of compatriot Charl Scwartzel.
The three time Major winner has battled injury, form and family problems for several years as hasn’t had a tour win for two years.
He struggled with his putting during the third round and apparently was uncharacteristically on the practice putting green till nightfall on Saturday night in a largely successful effort to get his short game back on track.
That short game helped him pull away down the final stretch in a stiff breeze at Doral’s Blue Monster course.
“I’ve got a take a lot of positive from this heading into the Masters next month,” Els said, clearly excited not only by the win but by what a return to form would mean for his year.
Els’ house guest and final round playing partner Schwartzel showed plenty of talent and composure to be challenging for the win on what was the biggest day of his US golfing career.
Schwartzel stumbled late to finish runner-up on 14 under with Irishman Padraig Harrington, German Martin Kaymer and American Matt Kuchar another three shots back in third place.
One time tournament leader Robert Allenby started the day two strokes behind but never mounted a serious challenge to the South Africans, finishing with 73 and equal 11th with fellow Aussie John Senden on nine-under.
The surprise packet was one of the field’s lowest ranked competitors, Australian Alistair Presnell, in his first World Golf Championships event, who carded the day’s best round – a sparkling 64 which saw him the best finishing Australian on 10 under and equal sixth.
“I’ve had some good last rounds but this is certainly the biggest tournament I’ve played in,” Presnell said.
Quote of the Day must go to former PGA Tour player and now NBC Television commentator Johnny Miller who explained why there were so few Americans (finally one at that point during the final round) in the top ten on the leaderboard (or top 20 for that matter).
Miller said in America they had so many other glamour sports like basketball, baseball etc that attracted top athletes.
“These other countries, they have soccer and golf,” Miller helpfully informed the audience.
These “soccer and golf” only sporting nations on the list at the time included Australia, South Africa, England, Ireland, Italy and Germany.