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December 1 2013

12:00 PM

No. 30 player to watch: Ernie Els

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With the PGA TOUR set to resume its 2013-14 season the first week of January, PGATOUR.COM is previewing the top 30 players to watch heading into the new year. We'll count down one a day in December until we unveil our No. 1 player to watch on Dec. 30, the Monday of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Check out this preview of No. 30 Ernie Els and join the discussion below on how you think he'll perform in 2014.


NO. 30 PLAYER TO WATCH: ERNIE ELS

2014 OUTLOOK: This will be Ernie Els' 21st year on the PGA TOUR and there isn’t much he hasn't seen or done in his Hall-of-Fame career. That included winning The Open Championship in 2012. But at 44 years old there's little doubt that Els is slowing down. From 1994 to 2004, he won at least once on the PGA TOUR every year except one, amassing a total of 15 victories on TOUR in that span (never mind all his success internationally, too). He has just four wins since, though did recommit himself to the game and has enjoyed the fruits of his labor. There's little doubt Els is in the twlight of his career, but he still managed to finish fourth at last year's U.S. Open and has enough in the tank to contend every now and again. -- Brian Wacker

THUS FAR THIS SEASON: Els made two starts -- both in Asia -- and played well in his last one with a T11 at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, where he closed with a final-round 66.

EXPERT VIEWS
FANTASY OUTLOOK
The Big Easy has evolved into a serviceable commodity. He's exempt into everything but the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, so the risk factor is low. Having turned 44 in October, it's worth the reminder that he's remained healthy as he's aged. That provides further confidence. -- Rob Bolton
ON THE MARK
Everyone is envious of Els’ rhythmic and fluid golf swing. Those traits that make his action so easy on the eye belie a number of very sound swing fundamentals, however. Proof of that is that in his 40s he still hits the ball as well and as far as the young guns. He tends to fight a hook and a misbehaving putter but when those two are under control he is able to win under any conditions. -- Mark Immelman
COURSE PREFERENCE
Els told me he has been putting so well he is thinking of abandoning his belly putter in favor of a  conventional length one. Does he have one more major in him? He has to be on a course that requires local knowledge, where he can think his way around the track. He still has good length off the tee and if he runs into a hot putting week he could still win the Masters. -- Fred Albers
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Els still put up a respectable scoring average of 70.491, the 41st best on TOUR. His distance off the tee (77th at 289.6) and accuracy with his long irons (28th in proximity from greater than 200 yards) are his strengths and likely explain his high eagles per hole rank of 19th at 139.5. Els dropped in greens hit from 53rd (66.52 percent) in ’12 to 163rd (61.74 percent) in ’13. -- Bill Cooney

VIDEO VAULT

Super Slo-Mo Drive: Ernie Els

The drive of multiple major champion Ernie Els, captured at The Barclays 2012, is analyzed by four-time PGA TOUR winner and Emmy-winning broadcaster Billy Kratzert.
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