Els itching to get back in the swing
World number three Ernie Els said on Wednesday that he was itching to get back into contention for golf’s biggest prizes after a disappointing United States Masters where he finished a distant 47th.
The triple major-winner, launching his bid to become the first three-time winner of the Johnnie Walker Classic, said he would use the tournament to correct the “technical faults” which plagued him at Augusta.
“My game wasn’t too good at Augusta, I had a couple of technical faults and really the posture wasn’t too good,” he said.
“I’ve got some things that I want to work on but hopefully I can get going and get back in contention.”
Els, who fell sick just before the Masters and took a week off in London before travelling here, dismissed suggestions that his globetrotting lifestyle was taking its toll.
“It’s easy to blame the schedule but I’ve done what I’m doing for 12 years and my record isn’t too bad,” he said. “I haven’t been sick like that for many years. It was just a bug, a virus or whatever.”
The recuperating Els heads a star-studded line-up including four of the world’s top 10 at the $2,3-million Johnnie Walker Classic, the richest golf tournament ever held in mainland China.
Fellow South African Retief Goosen, boosted by finishing joint third at the Masters, appeared confident that he could claim his second Johnnie Walker Classic title at the windswept Pine Valley course.
“I would like to have won some tournaments this year already but my golf probably hasn’t been as good as I would like it to have been,” said the world number five.
“I think my golf’s getting better and better so I’m looking forward to this week and seeing if I can maybe win this tournament.”
World number eight Sergio Garcia, number 10 Adam Scott and defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez are also challenging for the tournament, tri-sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian tours.
Chinese star Zhang Lian-Wei, fresh from his key role in Asia’s Visa Dynasty Cup win over Japan, will head the Asian charge in the nomadic tournament which is held in a different venue each year.
“I’m really happy the Johnnie Walker Classic is finally in China but playing here I always feel extra pressure,” said Zhang.
“Hopefully local fans will come out and support me and I will perform well.”
Six-time major winner Nick Faldo and seven-time European champion Colin Montgomerie will also be chasing the honours here, as well as rising English stars Paul Casey and Luke Donald, who finished third alongside Goosen at the Masters. - Sapa-AFP