Last chance for Ernie
One of the best running records in golf will come to an end if Ernie Els does not lift the Alfred Dunhill Championship.
One of the best running records in golf will come to an end if Ernie Els does not lift the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in South Africa this weekend.
The last time the former Open and US Open champion went through an entire year without a win was 19 years ago in 1990, the season after he turned professional.
But, while he wants to keep that going, Els also has an eye on next year and the new groove rule for professional tournaments intended to place a greater premium on hitting the fairway.
“That’s exactly why I’m here,” he said on the event website. “I didn’t play too much golf in South Africa this year, but I just love this place and it’s perfect to work on this aspect of the game.
“There’s a lot of new stuff to work on for next year. This will be the first tournament I’m playing with new grooves on my sand irons and irons, so this will be a good learning curve as to where I’m at with the new equipment.
“But the iron blade is exactly the same, so it shouldn’t be a big change. It’s just nice to have it in play in a tournament before we start next year.”
On his own website, Els added: “In effect, we’re turning back the clock with irons that generate a lot less backspin.
“It’s quite a big change at the top level of the game and it’ll make a real difference, especially with shots out of the rough.
“The players are not going to be able to spin the ball anything like we have done in recent years. So driving the ball in the fairway is going to be a bigger deal – no bad thing, to be honest.”
Defending champion is fellow South African Richard Sterne, who commented: “I haven’t really hit the new grooves.
“A lot of players have said that from the fairway they’re much the same, but from the rough it’s quite different.
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s a necessary change, but they’ve done it so we have to abide by it.”
The event tees off the new European Tour season and the first shot at 6.20am local time comes from 49-year-old former Ryder Cup star Barry Lane.
This is the Englishman’s 647th Tour start. That is still 58 fewer than record holder Sam Torrance, and whether Lane ever gets to that mark has to be in doubt with him becoming eligible to play senior golf next June.
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