Els hopes green jacket can still be a perfect fit

Thu Apr 9, 2015 7:57pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Ernie Els turned back the clock with a five-under 67 to sit three shots off the lead after the first round of the Masters on Thursday, rekindling belief a long predicted green jacket is still in his future.

Playing in his 21st Masters, the two-times runner-up at Augusta National surged into contention with his lowest opening round here by mixing five birdies and an eagle with two bogeys for a four-way share of second place.

"I think it's well documented that I still feel like I get something out of it," said the 45-year-old Els. "You know, these guys are good. I've got a lot of talent but you've got to get the most out of it now, we're running out of time.

"But I'll be up for it."

Els, who is widely known as the 'Big Easy' because of his smooth swing and generally laidback demeanor, had fallen on hard times around Augusta.

After 18 consecutive invitations to the Masters, Els failed to qualify for the tournament in 2012.

Following a gut-wrenching second place finish to Phil Mickelson in 2004, his love affair with Augusta faded.

Els missed the cut four of the next 10 years, failed to qualify in 2012 and managed to crack the top 15 only once.   Continued...

Ernie Els of South Africa doffs his cap after finishing out on the 18th hole during first round play of the Masters golf tournament at the Augusta National Golf Course in Augusta, Georgia April 9, 2015.  REUTERS/Phil Noble