AUGUSTA, Georgia (Reuters) - Ernie Els, a proud professional, was embarrassed in front of the world when he six-putted the first green at the Masters on Thursday, but he proudly persevered a day later and held his head high in the second round.
South African Els, a former world number one and four-times major champion, could not help but notice his peers looking at him as though he was radioactive when he entered the practice range to warm up on Friday morning.
“After what I did yesterday, you feel quite embarrassed ... It was a very weird, surreal feeling this morning,” said Els, who had struggled to an opening round of eight-over 80.
”I felt very bad when I got to the course ... I walked on to the range and even the players and caddies, they kind of just looked at me as if I don’t have pants on or something ... Not a nice feeling.
“But they’ve got a good reason to look at me funny for what happened yesterday.”
Things did not augur well for the South African when he missed a tiddler at the very same opening hole for a double bogey, but he steadied the ship to shoot a one-over 73, most respectable under the circumstances at windy Augusta National.
“I was almost back to my normal self,” Els said after missing the cut at nine-over 153, using the word “haywire” to describe his horrible Thursday brain freeze.
“Working on something new (on Thursday) backfired on me, so I went back to the things I’ve been working on the first couple of months of the year. I’ve got to address whatever the issue is and see if I can make it better.”
Els, 46, knows his time at Augusta may be running out as he tries to add a Green Jacket to his collection of two Claret Jugs and two U.S. Open trophies.
He wonders whether perhaps his sub-conscious was trying too hard but has been around long enough to know that embarrassing yourself occasionally is part of the deal for all sportsmen and women in the glare of the spotlight.
”I don’t think I’ve ever been tested by that.
“You play long enough, you make a fool of yourself somewhere, but I did it on the biggest stage.”
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes