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Els is aware he can't take it easy

B y Peter Bills

Not too much fazes Ernie Els. After all, he's not known the world over as 'The Big Easy' without good reason.

But whisper it in closed circles, big Ernie has a problem. His remodelled backswing isn't where he'd want it to be and when you come to Augusta with a dodgy swing it's like going shooting with a bad index finger.

What is more, although Els has won three 'majors' (the US Open in 1994 and 1997, the British Open of 2002) he's never won a Masters green jacket at Augusta.

Shades of Australian Greg Norman?

Ernie certainly hopes not, but he admits this week looks like a bit of a lottery for him.

"It could go either way for me" he said. "When I do those moves (on the remodelled swing) and I get it in the right slot, I'm hitting really wonderful golf shots. But to do that around Augusta, knowing all the hazards and trouble around this place, that's another story.

"Emotionally, I am hoping I can be right on Thursday and really trust the swing and trust my different moves. If I can slide a couple of good ones to go, I can take the momentum and move forward from there."

But maybe what to Ernie has to demonstrate more than anything this week is whether, deep down, he still possesses the real hunger to be a major winner once again.

Tiger Woods is setting such exalted standards of excellence and dedication that he's putting himself out on his own and, in recent times, the Big Easy has struggled to show he can match him.

Els suffered a big setback in 2005 when he suffered a serious knee injury, a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.

It took him a long while to get back and he's also had to deal with the personal difficulties of his son, Ben, being autistic. But Els has won already in 2008, at the Honda Classic, a win that earned him a cool $$990,000. It wasn't the money that so excited him, however, but the hopeful sign that he was on the road back.

"Winning the Honda was a big relief" he admitted this week. " And winning on US soil was great, too because I hadn't done that since 2004. So it was a great feeling."

Not in the same class of feeling, though, as he'd experience if he were to land the Masters this week. Now that would see some serious celebrating in the Els household.

Belfast Telegraph

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