March 15 Ernie wins for first time in two years


Ernie Els bagged his first win in two years, blowing away a stellar field by four shots in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral on Sunday.

Els played the final 23 holes without a bogey on the Blue Monster course in Miami and closed with a six-under 66 for a four-shot victory over his South African protégé Charl Schwartzel.

Els said: “I’m 40 years old. I’ve had a tough run. Whew! The hairs are standing up. It’s just great.”

He returned to among the elite in golf at number eight in the world and became only the fifth player to win multiple times in the World Golf Championships, joining Tiger Woods, Darren Clarke, Geoff Ogilvy and Phil Mickelson.

Els worked on his swing until twilight in the days leading up to Doral, then put it to the test in a final round that was far closer than the margin suggested. Schwartzel, a 25-year-old who took part in Els’ junior programme in South Africa, never backed down.

“This means so much,” Els said. “I didn’t think it was ever going to happen again. But I felt all week that the work that I did, that I finally had to trust it at some stage, and there’s no better day to really test yourself.

“I just wanted to prove to myself for once. Charl came at me all day. I had to come up with the goods.”

Els was clinging to a one-shot lead when he stood over a 25-foot par putt on the 14th hole, relieved to see it fall on the final turn. It was the pivotal moment in the tournament, the kind that Els had been missing since his victory two years ago in the Honda Classic.

“I basically just wanted to make five and get out of there. I haven’t been making those kind of putts, and you have to make putts like that to win golf tournaments at some point. Luckily for me, I did it on the 14th hole today. And absolutely, I felt a lot better after that. I felt like maybe this one is for me this week.”

Els finished at 18-under 270 to win for the 61st time worldwide, and 17th time on the PGA Tour.

Schwartzel, a house guest of Els the last two weeks, caught a bad break on the 15th hole when his ball plugged in a front bunker, and he knocked that into a back bunker on his way to a crucial bogey. He missed short putts on the next two holes and closed with a 70.

“All credit to Ernie. He played flawless golf today,” said Schwartzel, who earned $850,000 and will be able to take up PGA Tour membership next year. “I thought I played really good, gave a good charge. I was on his heels all the time.”

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