Ernie Els opened his heart yesterday to what Augusta National has done to him this year — and it made grim viewing.
The big South African revealed the mental torment and trauma that has dogged his every step at the Masters this week. “I tell you, it’s killing me. I can’t worry about this anymore. I’m serious. I’m killing myself and I don’t want to do it anymore,” he said.
It confirmed what we’d thought this week — Augusta and the Masters has got to the ‘Big Easy’.
Els, one of the pre-tournament favourites last week, sounded mentally shot, cooked to a frazzle by the searing heat which the Masters now apparently represents in his mind.
With a tone of despair in his voice, he said: “You put so much in and it’s almost like you are playing and you’re waiting for the fall. Somewhere down the line something is going to happen that’s not good. I’ve had too many of those experiences. It’s one of those tournaments.
“At least other majors we play different venues. So you’re not going to go back to the same holes and go, ‘Oh, two years ago, I did this here’.
“That’s the thinghere. You keep going nicely, manage your game well and then you miss one shot and then miss the next one. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Els confronted the brutal reality of his history at Augusta. Twice a runner-up, in 2000 and 2004, the latter when Phil Mickelson snatched the green jacket from his grasp with a birdie on the final hole, Els is beginning to understand that he may never taste Masters glory.
“If it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen. What can you do? I’m just beating my head against the wall every time,” he said.
“I’ve had a good attitude and the game was there this year. Everything was there but we just don’t gel.
“It’s done it (the Augusta misery) to a bunch of people and I’m probably one of them. I mean, go down the list — Tom Weiskopf, Greg Norman, Jonny Miller and many, many others. “It’ll be something that’s a huge void in my career but if I’m not going to do it, I’m not going to do it.”
Els pinpointed the exact moment we feared had wrecked his Masters quest for 2010. Coming to the 18th green on day one, he was three under and going well. But then came disaster with a double bogey six which he admits destroyed his tournament.
“That first day double bogey on 18I played beautifully but to finish like that?” he said. “It all started going down to script until that hole. I need to get over things like that but even on Friday I was still thinking about it. I knew I needed to shoot four rounds in the 60s and then I double bogeyed 18 downwind and it kind of killed me.”
With his recent history of three successive missed cuts, Els needed that shattering blow like a hole in the head.
“You prepare and prepare and it’s killing me,” he said. “I think next year I’ll just fly in on the Wednesday, leave the family at home, play 18 holes and then the golf tournament. What must be, must be. Doing it 17 years and walking around and looking around — it’s crazy.
“I’ve had a solid year and I’ve got to have a different attitude. So I’m going to do that next year. Just play it and not worry about it so much. There’s not too many guys who know more about the course than I do. That includes the winners. So I’ll just ease off, take my foot off the pedal and get myself mentally ready.”
And there remains much to play for this year, once another failure at Augusta has receded from his mind. “I want to have a good year” he said. “I’ve had a great start and I could win five or six tournaments this year. That’s what I am looking forward to.”
But none of them will be Augusta