For a guy with a bad ankle, Ernie Els is playing some amazing golf.
The British Open champion birdied six of his first seven holes in the second round of the HSBC Champions on Friday and finished the front nine with a 29, matching his lowest front-nine score in a U.S. PGA Tour-sanctioned event.
He also recorded a 29 at Muirfield Village during the 2002 British Open, the third of his four major championships.
With his round of 63 on Friday, he also moved from 19th place to a share of second with Australian Adam Scott, five strokes behind leader Louis Oosthuizen.
Els wasn’t even sure he’d be fit to play at Mission Hills after falling during a tennis match two weeks ago and injuring his ankle. The 43-year-old pulled out of the PGA Grand Slam of Golf, an exhibition event in Bermuda, last week.
”It swells up and it comes down a little bit,” he said. ”It’s a little painful but I can hit it and I can walk, so I take Advil and some Celebrex (both anti-inflammatories) and I’ve got a strap (on it).”
Els played so solidly on Friday he even thought he might be able to shoot golf’s magic number – a 59 – midway through his round.
”That number was crossing my mind,” he said. ”You know, I just didn’t quite make the putts coming in.”
He’s in position to challenge Oosthuizen if his countryman stumbles over the next couple of days. If he were to win on Sunday, Els would be the second-oldest player to capture a World Golf Championship event. Vijay Singh was 45 when he won the Bridgestone Invitational in 2008.
The one thing he could probably do without, however, is walking up and down all the hills on the course with his ankle not fully healed.
”Yeah, I feel it, but Vern, my trainer, is here and he’s working on me,” Els said. ”He’s got me around.”