When you have just six-putted from two feet on the 1st hole of the Masters there’s no hiding place – Ernie Els has battled with the yips in recent years but it has never been this gruesome.
The 46-year-old began his week with a nine (it was recorded for much of the day as a 10) after leaving himself a short putt for par to get his round off to a solid start. Less than a minute later he was hockeying it around the hole and then back-handing and missing before finally seeing the ball disappear.
“I can go to that putting green now and make 20 straight 3‑footers. And then you get on the course and you feel a little different and you can’t do what you normally do.
“I can’t explain it. You just can’t do what you normally do. A lot of people have stopped playing the game. I couldn’t get the putter back. I was standing there, I’ve got a 3‑footer, I’ve made thousands of 3‑footers and I just couldn’t take it back.”
Els rallied for an 80 though the putting barely improved. He missed a two-footer at the 2nd before signing off with the same on 17 and a four-footer at the last. The six-putt was the 23rd on the PGA Tour since 1992 and the first in nearly two years.
“I’m hitting the ball half decent and I can’t make it from two feet. On 17, 18, 16, 15, 14, you name it, with the putter it was difficult on every hole. I don’t know how I stayed out there. But you love the game and you got to have respect for the tournament but it’s unexplainable. It’s very tough to tell you what goes through your mind. It’s the last thing that you want to do is do that on a golf course at this level. So, it’s very difficult.”
Playing partner Jason Day admitted that he’d never seen the like of it.
“I feel for Ernie. I didn’t realise he was fighting stuff like that upstairs with the putter. You just don’t want to see any player go through something like that, because it can be sometimes career ending for guys like that if they really are fighting it that much.”
— Bunkers Paradise (@BunkersParadise) April 7, 2016