‘Big Easy’ surprised by Masters form

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The four-time Major winner missed the cut in four of the six tournaments he played coming into the Masters. “The only good finish was at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where I finished 13th. I then was 57th at the Houston Open.

“I have done a lot of work and I was tinkering with the shafts. I went with a lighter shaft and it has taken a bit of time to get used to a lot of these changes,” Els said in an interview with the African News Agency (ANA) afterwards.

Els, who at 45, is 24 years older than 21-year-old Spieth, and playing in his 21st Masters. He said he knew what the youngster was feeling like. “At the US Open in Baltusrol in 1993 Lee Janzen had an 8-footer, if he makes it, I don’t make the cut. But he then missed it and I went on to score 68 and 67 over the weekend and that got me into my first Masters. That is how the whole thing started.

“In Baltusrol, I played with Hale Irwin on Saturday after I made the cut and here is a Hall of Famer who won the US Open in 1990. I am standing on the tee as a 23-year-old with this guy who is a legend. He does not know who the hell I am. It is amazing because he was probably the same age as I am now, and I was basically a young Jordan Spieth on the first tee – I am the old guy now.”

Els said that the experience of having played at the Masters for many years counted in his favour. “Experience at the Augusta National course gives you a different perspective from when you are a youngster, feeling that things are owed to you.

“I kind of had that feeling here, I was kind of cocky. I thought this course is made for me, I am going to win quite a few and now I am 45 and I have not.

“I have not played well here in a decade after the 2002 loss to Phil (when he lost by a shot after Mickelson birdied the 18th). In many ways I have been hurt a lot by my play here and by the other players’ better play. So it is nice to come back here, bring the family and, knowing that time is running out, being finally able to play well.”

The ‘Big Easy’ was the best of the South Africans on Thursday, with 2012 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel the only other South African to play a sub-par round. Schwartzel carded a one-under 71 to lie tied 17th, while Louis Oosthuizen signed for a par

Brendon Grace, who is playing his third Masters, birdied the first and third to lie two under, but then carded three bogeys and a double bogey at the 11th hole to finish three-over for the round and is in danger of missing the cut. 2008 Masters Champion Trevor Immelman had a disappointing round of 76.

Schwartzel said he was satisfied with his round. “The front nine was very scorable today. We didn’t have much wind and the greens were quite soft. I took advantage of that and I hit a lot of good golf shots.

“I am a little disappointed with the back nine, but it was more difficult. The wind started coming up, so it wasn’t easy to hit good quality shots. But any time I shoot under par the first day, I’ll take it.” – ANA

Original source: ‘Big Easy’ surprised by Masters form