Was anyone actually expecting Ernie Els to play a better round Friday than he did Thursday?
Els has carded two, terrific rounds of 68 and 66 at Doral’s beastly Blue Monster course at the WGC-CA Championship, where he is in the lead at 10-under par.
Unexpected? Yes. Implausible? No.
Els has been one of my golf icons since I could grip a club. He epitomizes the purity and fluidity of the golf swing. His on and off course demeanor is that of a champion; modest, but relentless; fierce, but collected.
I was lucky enough to follow him for a few holes at what was then the Northern Trust Open in Palisades, California, at Riviera Country Club. As an aspiring, young golfer at the time, he was the one golfer that taught me you didn’t need to swing harder or faster to make the ball go further.
His pre-shot routine was a simple gaze into the distance and his silky swing was uninhibited and tranquil, like an autumn breeze swooshing through the leaves.
Over the last few years, Els’ game, however, has resembled that of an ebb-and-flow amateur restructuring his swing rather than a 40-year-old professional with three majors under his belt and countless worldwide wins. It has become all too common for Els to shoot a brilliant Thursday round, only to see it virtually erased by mistakes off the tee, three-putts, and carelessness on Fridays.
Yesterday as I was mulling over the first day’s leaderboard at the CA Championship at Doral, I was, well, hesitant (to say the least) to take Els in my top-five picks for the weekend. Having not won since 2008 and never really coming close in 2009 (aside from seven top-10’s), I put my bets elsewhere.
It has been refreshing to see him playing great golf over the last couple days—but, I can’t help but wonder if the weekend will send him into a whirlwind of dismay.
Now that he has surpassed Thursday and Friday, will his nerves get the best of him, or will he show golf fans he can still compete with the best in the world?
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