Els targets second Doral-Major double
The last time Ernie Els won at Doral he went on to win The Open four months later. Can he repeat the feat?
The last time Ernie Els won at Doral in Miami he went on to win The Open four months later.
That was eight years ago. This time he hopes his wait for another major title is just three weeks away.
Els captured the WGC-CA Championship by four strokes from fellow South African Charl Schwartzel on Sunday night and since the best of the rest – Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer and Matt Kuchar – were seven back, it was a victory that will have the 40-year-old’s Masters odds tumbling down.
Els had not won a Tour event for two years, but his 63rd professional title takes him back into the world’s top 10, a place where he has spent more weeks (759) than any other player since the rankings started in 1986.
“I’ve had a tough run and I really wanted to play well,” he said after a bogey-free 66 for an 18-under par total.
“I just wanted to prove something to myself for once. I had to really trust the changes I’ve just made. The wind was blowing and you had to hit solid shots.
“Charl came at me all day and I have to take a lot of positives out of this.”
It was Els’ second victory in the event. Under former sponsor American Express he lifted the title at Mount Juliet in Ireland in 2004.
It also makes Els the leading career money-winner on the European Tour again, taking him ahead of Colin Montgomerie with more than £21million.
Harrington fell out of the reckoning with a hat-trick of bogeys from the 13th and after his level-par 72 on a day of low scoring the Irishman said: “I obviously struggled a bit all day.
“Those three holes were pretty simple up and downs and I didn’t make them. I was hanging on a knife-edge all day, but I learnt a few things – as you always do in these situations.
“My bunker play was just not with it and my pitching could have been a bit better. You don’t really see it until you are under pressure.
“I’m happy – I need to be competing and testing myself.”
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell matched Els’ 66 to climb from 16th to joint sixth with England’s Paul Casey, Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, American Bill Haas and little-known Australian Alistair Presnell.
“I never thought for one second I could get into the hunt, but this is a great boost for me,” said McDowell, who had been in danger of falling outside the world’s top 50 entering the second world championship of the season.
Casey has now finished second, fourth and sixth in his last three starts in America, but is really keen to start winning again after hearing that television commentator Johnny Miller had called him “the bigger under-achiever” in golf.
Ian Poulter, who beat Casey in the final of the World Match Play last month, gave his confidence another shot in the arm with a closing 64, the joint best round of the tournament.
He was still only 37th, but having suffered a back strain on the eve of the event he was delighted the week was not a total write-off.
However, 20-year-old Rory McIlroy clearly has a lot of work to do after failing to break par all four days and finishing joint 65th of the 68 players.
“I just didn’t have it and haven’t had it for the last couple of weeks. I’ve a few issues to sort out when I get home.
“The back isn’t worrying me, but it’s getting me down.”
He intends to ease off on the physio work, at least for a while, saying: “Half of it is probably mental. I’m starting off in a negative mood.”
Hopefully, a trip to Augusta these next three days will get him in a better frame of mind.
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