'Big Easy' happier on greens after putting blues

Wed Feb 17, 2016 9:25pm EST
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes

PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Thanks to a changed grip and different technique, Ernie Els can finally see light at the end of the tunnel after struggling badly with his short putting for much of the past 12 months.

The four-times major champion and former world number one reached his nadir last month when he duffed a putt from just 18 inches at the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club where he ended up missing the cut.

Prompted by his father Neels and fellow South African golfer Nico van Rensburg, Els switched to an unconventional putting grip where his left hand is placed below the right, leading to a welcome return to form at this month's Dubai Desert Classic.

"It's been very nice," Els told Reuters at Riviera Country Club on Wednesday while preparing for this week's PGA Tour event, the Northern Trust Open.

"The greens here are a little bit tricky but I am looking forward to putting, which is what I've been looking forward to for a very long time, just having a good feeling on the greens. It's finally getting there.

"I went through a very tough spell there, especially last year and beginning of this year. Everybody saw that. I was really nowhere and now I feel like I've got some game."

Asked how difficult it had been to cope with a radical change in muscle memory from a conventional putting technique he had used for decades, Els replied: "This feels very natural now and the putting stroke is repeating itself.

"I had never really tried it before. My dad and my good friend Nico both told me to try it so I did. I'm now feeling very comfortable and confident."   Continued...

Ernie Els of South Africa hits the ball out of the bunker on the sixth hole during the Dubai Desert Classic golf championship February 6, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah