For a 49 year old, Ernie Els has found himself in the news quite a bit in 2019. Most of it can be chalked up to his role as International captain for this year's Presidents Cup, and his comments on his love-hate relationship with the Maters also drew some attention. Yet the play of the four-time major winner has done its share of the talking.
Els, who's failed to make much noise inside the ropes over the last five years or so, posted a T-12 at the Dubai Desert Classic in the winter and followed it up with a nice run at the Honda Classic. Those performances weren't aberrations, as Els finds himself just two shots off the lead at this week's European Tour event in Malaysia after opening rounds of 68 and 70.
"The last four years have been a struggle, so I'm really happy that I'm playing good golf again," Els said at the Maybank Championship. "My body feels good and the ball striking is there now.
"On the greens I'm starting to feel really comfortable, so that means I can have a chance again to play with these guys. That's what I want, to feel like I can have a chance playing Saturdays and Sundays."
Els is seeking his first win on any tour since the 2013 BMW International. The former No. 1 is currently outside the world's top 350 players.
Ahead of Els is Thomas Pieters. The Belgian, who has made waves for his interesting bag signage, is eight under through two days.
"It didn't feel like a good day to me, I made the best of what I had," Pieters said. "I gave myself a lot of chances but I couldn't seem to get the ball in the hole.
"When you miss a couple of putts you try to read too much into it. I just put it down, looked once, and gave it a go."
There are 15 players within three shots of Pieters, including Shubhankar Sharma and David Lipsky.