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January 14 2013

2:08 PM

Els blog: Middle East beckons

Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013. To learn more about the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.

I’ve had a bit of success at Durban Country Club in the past. I love this golf course and the Volvo is a great event for South African golf, so I was glad to start my year here. After a long break you never know quite where you are with your game. I’ve been shooting some scores in practice and I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball nicely, but like everyone else there’s a little rust to shake off.

Starting my first round with three straight birdies was a nice little bonus, but after that it was a battle. It was wet and windy out there and the conditions were pretty challenging. In fact, the last five or six holes the rain came down big time, so all in all I was pleased to shoot 68. And it was fun playing for the first time with Nicolas Colsaerts. I’ve played with Bubba and Dustin and those guys just bomb it 40 yards further than any of us. Nicolas is unbelievable, though. I was coming in from a different zip code on a couple of holes!

For the next couple of days I’d say the word ‘rusty’ was about the best way to describe my game. I played okay and hit a lot of greens, but it just wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be – basically, a few too many missed opportunities and some basic errors here and there. Still, this early in the season you really have to take it one step at a time and as I said it was nice to kick things off at DCC.

It was nice also for the fans to see another home player win this tournament and it’s a proud moment for everyone at the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, because Louis is the second of our former members to win this tournament after Branden Grace did it in 2012. These guys have so much talent and they’re an inspiration to the young kids not only at our Foundation but also right across the country. They’re doing a great job flying the flag for South African golf.

Okay, so I’m in the Middle East now for a couple of weeks – the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship followed by the Commercialbank Qatar Masters – before we go to the States and start our run to the Masters. We haven’t been here in a while and in actual fact, this is the first time I’ve played Abu Dhabi. I’m excited to be here. I’ve always said this region has a special place in my heart. I’ve won here four times, including my first ever European Tour victory in Dubai almost 20 years ago, and I have a lot of good friends here.

It’s also an important region for Ernie Els Design, with us having created the Els Club Dubai, and in actual fact the club professional from there is teeing it up in Abu Dhabi this week. Callum Nicoll clinched the last spot in a qualifier last month -- quite an achievement for a guy who probably plays only one round of golf a week. We’ll play a practice round in the next couple of days. Callum knows this golf course better than I do so he can show me where to hit it.

Anyway, I’ve heard it’s a great tournament and a strong golf course. Obviously it would be great to add this title to my collection. Let’s see how we go.

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