January 7 2011
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- A few weeks ago at the South African Open, Ernie Els made several lengthy putts en route to shooting 25 under to win the event for the fifth time in his career.
Considering the condition of what he called "ridiculously terrible greens" at the Durban Country Club, Els left his native country feeling pretty good about his putting stroke going into this week’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
"The greens were worse than these fairways," Els said Friday after the second round at the Plantation Course at Kapalua. "To shoot 25 under par on greens like that, you know, I thought that was quite nice.
"I've just go to to it on perfect greens like we have here."
He didn't do it in Thursday's opening round when he shot a tentative 1-under 72. But he made up for it on Friday with a 9-under 64 that has him in great shape at 10 under going into the weekend.
Els said a lengthy session on the putting green following Thursday's round helped iron out some kinks in his stroke. After needing 34 putts on Thursday, he reduced that to 29 putts on Friday.
"Yesterday, my ball position was too far back in my putting stance," Els said. "I was shoving them a little bit and I have to try and release the putter.
"So I just went back to get this feeling that I'm supposed to have, I guess, and it kind of worked today."
Els was scheduled to play with Camilo Villegas, but the Colombian was disqualified after a rules violation resulted in signing an incorrect first-round scorecard. So Els got to play with Rocco Mediate, who was initially supposed to be a single in the first group of the day.
Els said there were five greens on Friday in which he managed to get a read from a Mediate putt that was on the same line. The final time came at the 17th green when Els rolled in a putt from 27 feet, 7 inches after Mediate missed from 33 feet.
Mediate, ever the jokester, couldn't contain himself any longer, giving Els some good-natured grief about all the help he was providing.
"When I made that putt (at 17), it was all over," Els said with a smile. "You can imagine with Rocco ... I'm supposed to buy him beers right now."
If Els continues to keep a hot putter, he might very well be buying beers for a lot of people after Sunday's final round. -- Mike McAllister