Ernie Els and I should be worlds apart.

He’s a four-time Major champion – with two Claret Jugs in his trophy cabinet.

I was once Newcastle University’s alumni golf champion (surely a Major in anyone’s book?).

Els has been at the top of his craft for more than two decades.

I have never broken 80 in a competition.

But there are more similarities between us than you might think. He makes wine. I drink wine.

Okay, that’s tenuous. But this isn’t. The pair of us have endured our struggles with the putter.


I thought I’d conquered mine.

Equipped with a new flat-stick, I’d felt a measure of calm – even confidence – as I strolled around the greens.

Then came the 8th hole in our monthly medal. I play at Sandburn Hall, a course not too far outside of York and weighing in at a princely 6,723 yards off the whites.

I masquerade as a 12-handicapper but, in recent weeks, I’ve been struggling to play off 20.

Putting is my Achilles’ heel.

The 8th is a straight-forward hole, truth be told. It’s a 200 yard par 3 in a straight line with only a large tree about 20 yards short right of the green to cause you any real problems.

It never proves easy for me, though. After a hybrid landed right of the green, I managed to shank a chip.

This was still no problem, though, as I’d got away with murder – finding the back fringe about 10 feet from the hole.

Here’s where Ernie and I share our unspoken bond.

Remember the first at Augusta in April, where The Big Easy somehow managed to 6-putt from two feet as he opened his Masters campaign?

After lagging up to nothing more than a foot further away, I then jabbed my putt and watched it slide by the hole.

Only to then miss the next. Disaster.

Was I concentrating properly? I’m not sure, maybe I just threw my putter at it in the way Els zig-zagged around his opener at the Masters.

All I know is that from less than six inches, I’d managed to add another stroke to my score.

I withered on my way to a nett 79, with three further 3-putts, and signed my card in such frustration I unwittingly added an extra digit to the total.

Stick the clubs in the cupboard for a few days.

Only, fortified by a couple of glasses and the hubris only alcohol can provide, I had the bright idea of putting in a supplementary card in a bid to repair the handicap damage of the day before.

What a mistake to make.

In two rounds in the space of 24 hours, I recorded 75 putts. That’s more than any round score Els has recorded in his last 10 outings.

Tied 27th in a Monthly Medal, and 26 points the next day, is not my idea of a profitable weekend.

It’s back to the drawing board. Now where’s my putting mirror?

Steve Carroll plays off 12. For the time being…