By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- For 16 holes, Ernie Els looked poised to get his first victory in two years.
Then the putting stroke that has plagued Els in recent years, the ones that caused him to switch to a belly putter, a club he once thought should be banned from the game, reared its ugly head again.
With just 4 1/2 feet separating Els from par and a playoff at the Transitions Championship, Els tugged his ball left on the 18th hole, made bogey and missed out on what was ultimately a four-man playoff.
“It's a difficult green,” said Els, who missed five putts from inside 10 feet on Sunday. “I was trying to just jam it in there and I pulled it.”
Els’ bogey-bogey finish dropped him into a tie for fifth and with it severely hurt his chances of getting into the Masters. A win would have guaranteed Els a spot in the field.
“It's going to be tough,” Els said. “I'm pretty hot now, and it's difficult to talk with a straight head here.
“If I take stock, I think I'm playing good golf, and I've got to head into the next couple of weeks trying to get a win.”
By falling down the leaderboard Els also fell in the Official World Golf Ranking, dropping to 62nd, which means he’ll need to win at next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard or the Shell Houston Open the following week.
Els’ slide began in earnest on the par-3 17th, where, leading by one, he flared his tee shot right and into the trees.
The ball bounded off a tree and left him a decent lie, but he had to pitch over a bunker and did well to get it to 24 feet.
Els missed the putt to fall back into a tie for the lead before losing it for good a hole later.
“I had no shot,” Els said. “I had no shot.”