Golf: Does Ernie Els Have Another Major Title Left in Him?

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 21, 2012

SHENZHEN, CHINA - NOVEMBER 04:  Ernie Els of South Africa on the 5th tee during the final round of the WGC HSBC Champions at the Mission Hills Resort on November 4, 2012 in Shenzhen, China.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Ernie Els had a huge comeback season in 2012.

He earned $3.45 million last year, won the British Open and finished second in the Zurich Classic to go along with his five top-10 finishes and nine top-25 finishes.

That was a major improvement from 2011, when Els earned just under $950,000 and had one top-10 finish.

Els appeared to be on a downhill track before he surged during the summer. He had a ninth-place finish in the U.S. Open before it all came together for him at the British Open.

He served notice with an opening round of 67 and then had a steady 70 in the second round. Then Els turned it on in the final 36 holes, shooting a 68 on moving day and another 68 in the final round to secure his fourth major title.

Adam Scott may have had control of the tournament with a six-stroke lead, but it was Els who took advantage when his competitor collapsed.

Els has won the U.S. Open twice and the British Open twice.

But how much does Els, 43, have left in his golfing tank?

Was his championship performance in the oldest of all majors an indicator that he can be considered one of the top-10 golfers in the world again, or are his best days behind him?

The chances are that the young lions on tour are going to have an advantage over Els on a weekly basis. While he may have one of the most beautiful swings in the history of the game, and he is already a World Golf Hall of Famer, the chances are not good that he can dominate on a weekly basis.

The younger generation of golfers, led by World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and big-hitting Bubba Watson, are just too good and too strong to beat on a regular basis.

However, Els should not be discounted in the big events. It would be one thing if he had won the British Open but had finished poorly in the other majors. But the fact that he was in the top 10 in the U.S. Open may be even more significant.

The fact that Els could perform consistently in back-to-back majors means he is close to top form for the big events.

Els probably would be best served in cutting back his season-long play and concentrate on the majors. He played in 22 events last year, but for consistency's sake, he might be better served cutting that number to 18.

Taking four tournaments off would help him preserve his strength and sharpen his focus. He does not need to prove anything to anyone else since he is one of the game's all-time greats.

The swing is the thing with Els and he can get it done under pressure as well as anybody. His putting stroke may be an issue—he ranked 112th in strokes gained putting—but the rest of his game is still of championship quality.

Els is not just taking his putting issues and accepting them. He works with a putting coach and has developed a routine to improve this weakness.

"I've got a program that I'm on, that I work on physically with my eyes, then on the golf course and on the putting greens and where I practice,'' Els told "I've got a much better routine. I didn't have much of a routine. Like in your long game, there's a certain routine that you go through, and we're just going back to basics.''

Els is a championship golfer who is still turned on by playing on the biggest stage.

He just may have another major—or two—left in him.