Els gets first victory in two years
Ernie Els showed his South African protege what it takes to win a
World Golf Championship. Just as important was that he showed
himself how to win again, too.
Ending the longest drought of his 20-year career, Els played
the final 23 holes on the Blue Monster without a bogey and closed
with a 6-under 66 on Sunday to win the CA Championship by four
shots over Charl Schwartzel.
It was far closer than the margin suggested.
Schwartzel, 25, in his first time on a world stage, refused
to let Els get away from him. Els was clinging to a one-shot lead
as he stood over a 25-foot par putt on the 14th hole, and the Big
Easy was relieved to see it fall on the final turn.
Schwartzel, a houseguest of Els the past two weeks, caught a
bad break on the 15th hole when his ball plugged in a front bunker,
and he knocked that into a back bunker on his way to a crucial
bogey. He missed short putts on the next two holes and closed with
That allowed Els a strange sensation, walking up to the 18th
green with his cap in hand, waving to the gallery, unable to
contain a smile that showed equal parts relief and satisfaction.
“I’m 40 years old. I’ve had a tough run,” Els said. “Whew!
The hairs are standing up. It’s just great.”
Els last won two years ago at the Honda Classic, which he won
while warming up on the range for a possible playoff. He became
only the fifth player with multiple victories in the World Golf
Championships, joining Tiger Woods, Darren Clarke, Geoff Ogilvy and
It was his 61st victory worldwide and 17th on the PGA Tour,
and moved Els to No. 8 in the world rankings.
“My game was in good shape,” said Els, who finished at
18-under 270. “I just wanted to prove to myself for once. Charl
came at me all day. I had to come up with the goods.”
It was a strong effort by Schwartzel, who has considered Els
a hero since he first started playing golf. Despite two bogeys on
the final four holes, he was the only player to give Els a run. And
he was poised to take him down until his tee shot left him little
hope in the sand.
“I plugged and that was a killer,” Schwartzel said. “For
me, it’s been the biggest stage I’ve had. This is a good day for
Padraig Harrington fell out of contention with three straight
bogeys on the back nine, closing with a 72 to tie for third at
11-under 277 along with Matt Kuchar (68) and Martin Kaymer of
Germany, who had a 69 and moved up to No. 7 in the world.
Alistair Presnell of Australia matched the best round of the
day with a 64 and tied for sixth. Defending champion Phil
Mickelson, who was never in the mix, shot a 68 and tied for 14th.
Els could not have imagined being in the final group at Doral
with Schwartzel, and to see the two South Africans standing on the
first tee under warm sunshine, it was easy to see what the Big Easy
To think that Schwartzel was 2 when his father and Els won a
club tournament together or that he was among the gangly teens who
traveled with the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation junior team.
More recently, Els invited the Schwartzel to stay in his South
Florida home while Schwartzel was passing time between two WGC
And they stayed together for so much of the final round,
trading birdies and keeping their names atop the leaderboard.
Els made birdie from the bunker on the opening hole.
Schwartzel answered with a 25-foot birdie on the second. Els
followed with two straight birdies, the most impressive on the
223-yard fourth with a shot into 8 feet despite a vicious
right-to-left wind. Schwartzel fell three shots behind with a bogey
from the bunker on No. 5, only to birdie his next three holes.
No one else joined the chase.
Harrington played bogey-free for 12 holes, but he had only
two birdies. Robert Allenby pulled within a shot with an opening
birdie, then went 10 holes before making another one. Kaymer went
out in 33, then failed to make birdie on the par 5s on the back
It became a South African duel in Miami, and Schwartzel gave
Els about all he could handle until the end. After his bogey on the
15th, he left a 10-foot birdie putt short on the 16th, then drove
into the palm trees on the 17th and took bogey.
Els suddenly has good vibes as he begins his road to the
Masters, the one major that has haunted him throughout his career.
His victory was worth $1.4 million, and moved him past Colin
Montgomerie and atop the PGA European Tour career money list with
about $33.6 million.