/ 12 November 2008

Big Easy back on track with Singapore in his sights

Ernie Els has made major changes to his set-up this season and it has not always paid off, but his second win of the year last weekend has left him confident ahead of the Singapore Open.

The South African has switched his base from Wentworth in England to West Palm Beach in Florida, changed his caddie and personal trainer and replaced David Leadbetter with Butch Harmon as his coach.

The statistics show it has yet to pay dividends with seven missed cuts and just two victories.

But the ”Big Easy” is upbeat after winning the low-key King Hassan II Trophy in Morocco on Sunday for his 64th career title, two shots ahead of European Tour stars Simon Dyson and Johan Edfors.

”Having had a month off this was a pretty solid effort in my first week back at work and it shows that the hard work is paying off,” he said.

”I’m swinging it well and hitting the ball nicely. And I feel as fit and healthy as I’ve ever been. I just need to keep working hard, keep playing well and keep building momentum.

”That’s one key element that has been lacking in my game this year and, to be honest, it mainly comes down to a lack of confidence. The win in Morocco won’t cure that, but it’s a small step in the right direction.”

Els had the outstanding record of being in the world’s top 10 for more than 700 consecutive weeks, a feat unrivalled by any other golfer of his generation, although that came to an end this week when he slipped to world number 11.

Nevertheless, he is confident of more success at the Singapore Open starting on Thursday, where the field includes fellow heavyweights such as Phil Mickelson, Padraig Harrington and Adam Scott.

Els, who won the US Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002, has had mixed fortunes here in recent years, losing in a play-off to Scott in 2006 then missing the cut last year.

”I played really nicely in 2006, but lost out in a play-off to Adam Scott, and then last year I had a horrible couple of days and missed the cut, although to be fair I was suffering from sickness in the first round,” he said.

”I’m feeling good about my game and hoping for a strong week.”

Els, who has been struggling with his putting, has always been one of the world’s truly international golfers and is looking forward to the Race to Dubai in 2009, with more European Tour events on his schedule.

”I will play pretty much the same schedule but maybe a few more in Europe,: he said.

”There are a lot of tournaments that criss-cross both Tours so I’ll play those and maybe one or two more in Europe. I think the Race to Dubai is a pretty good thing so I will take it quite seriously.”

The European Tour season will culminate in Dubai in November next year with a tournament offering a prize fund of $10-million, the richest in the world. – AFP