Ernie Els has vowed to sort out what has gone wrong with his putting stroke following the ghastly greens showing that wrecked his Masters campaign.
The 46-year-old South African cut a forlorn figure on Thursday after he took an astonishing six putts to get the ball into the hole on the opening hole of his first round, a sequence that made for painful viewing.
That humiliation he blamed on “snakes and stuff” that he said had invaded his brain, but it was clear that the problem was not just a one-off aberration but due to something more fundamental in his putting technique.
On Friday, he three-putted the first green to take a six, three strokes better than the day before, and, although he battled back over the rest of the round, his closing 73 left him at 9-over for the tournament – well outside the cut.
It had been, the four-time major winner said, a chastening experience and one which is sure to leave some lasting psychological scars on one of the most popular players on the tour.
“After what I did yesterday, you feel quite embarrassed and kind of couldn’t get myself going,” he said. “It was a very weird, surreal feeling this morning. It was like I walked on to the range and even the players and caddies, they kind of just looked at me as if I don’t have pants on or something. Not a nice feeling. But they’ve got a good reason to look at me funny for what happened yesterday.”
The most obvious reason for the crisis with Els’ putting would seem to be his switch back from a broomstyle anchored putter to a regular stick in order to conform to the new rules that came into effect at the start of the year.
Whatever the problem is, Els – who finished second at the Masters in 2000 and 2004 – says he has not quite put his finger on it.
“It could be anxiety, it could be a lot of stuff, so definitely not my normal self, especially the last two days,” he said. “It could be because I’m running out of time at this beautiful place and maybe putting a bit too much pressure on myself to putt like that. So, we’ll figure it out.
“Just an unbelievable test. I don’t think I’ve ever been tested like that ever before.”
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