Els, back with Leadbetter, in fine Masters fettle

Wed Apr 6, 2016 1:16pm EDT
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By Andrew Both

AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Ernie Els, his confidence flooding back after a return to health and a reunion with his old coach, sounds more enthusiastic than in years as he prepares for the 80th Masters starting on Thursday.

And if four-times major winner Els on Sunday does not finally don the Green Jacket that so far has eluded him in an otherwise stellar career, he will not be surprised if one of his fellow South Africans accomplishes the feat.

The 46-year-old has recovered from a hip injury and he says that the slick condition of the par-72 Augusta National layout this week looks like being right up his alley, after last year being softer than a fresh pudding.

"The course is very fast and very firm this year which kind of suits me because I can get the ball out there a bit," Els told Reuters under the stately oak tree adjacent to the first tee.

"You have to play smart here and there. I'm not saying I'm smart but you can't just go blindly at the flags like we did last year. You have to play away from flags."

Perhaps even more important for the former world number one than the course condition is that a nagging right hip injury is now behind him.

"I've been struggling all year with injuries, niggles here and there (but now) I can swing freely," he said. "Hopefully, touch wood, it stays."

Els reunited on Monday with his former swing coach David Leadbetter.   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