JERSEY CITY, N.J. - If Ernie Els plays the final 36 holes of The Barclays the way he has played the last 32, it could be a good weekend for the South African. Els was four-over after four holes Thursday at Liberty National GC but fought back and shot a one-over 72. Spurred by an eagle-2 on No. 16 Friday, Els shot a 68 to work his way into the top 10 midway through the first event in the PGA Tour playoffs.
While Webb Simpson was leading at eight-under with a two holes left in his second round, Els stood at two-under 140 with the low round in the clubhouse on a tough day of scoring. "I've got to be pretty pleased with where I am right now," said Els. "I've driven the ball well so far. My iron play feels good. My putter feels better. You know, I might even have a chance this weekend. We'll see."
Els could use more holes like the 16th, where he hit a driver from 288 yards to eight feet and sank the putt. "The golf course is such where it keeps you off balance, you don't get into a flow," said Els. "You think you string a couple of good holes together, then there's an awkward shot that you're faced with and so it doesn't really get you in a good flow. That was my case today--I hit in the water off the tee on No. 5. Some of these greens are really quite tricky. So it can test you. But I like it."
Els missed the cut in the Masters and U.S. Open but recorded solid finishes in the British Open (T-6) and PGA Championship (T-8). His putting (T-153 in putting average) has held him back, but he has been working hard on it, reviewing tapes of past putting success and recently lengthening his putter for a different feel. "This year my whole game, I've kind of pieced together again, and I've started feeling good about it now," Els said. "I [just have] to get my mind to believe that it's good now and I just have to keep going. I think I"ve gone over that little hump that it's been in. In this game, you're always working on something, and you try and get better and sometimes you go the other way."
*--Bill Fields *