Els and Ogilvy Go Down Together


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy show was considered a must-see, two of the trendy picks to win if Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson faltered at the Masters.
It took all of two holes for that trend to run its course.
With one bad shot after another Thursday, Els and Ogilvy watched their scores climb and their chances tumble. Els, a three-time major winner, shot a 6-over-par 78 that matched his third-worst score in 14 years at Augusta National. Ogilvy, the reigning U.S. Open champ, came in at 3-over 75.
Ernie Els
Ernie Els was one of many top players who struggled in the opening round of The Masters. (WireImage)
'It was a difficult day, a very tough day,' Els said. 'I played some better stuff on the back nine and we'll try to work ourselves back into it. I don't quite know how, but we're going to give it a try.'
Any other tournament, and they may as well start packing. But this is the notoriously fickle Masters, and swirling winds mean almost nobody is out of it quite yet.
Justin Rose and Brett Wetterich were the leaders at 3-under 69. But there was a slew of people bunched up at 75, 76 and 77. Even Mickelson struggled, shooting a 4-over 76.
'You aren't going to get a lot of rounds in the 60s in this wind,' said Tom Watson, a two-time winner here who shot 3-over 75.
Tricky conditions and slick greens wouldn't seem to be a problem for Els or Ogilvy. Both are U.S. Open winners, the ultimate test in precision and putting. And Els has a claret jug from the British Open, where wind is as much a staple as grass and tea.
Not on this day, however.
Els was in trouble from the start, opening with a double-bogey on the par-4 No. 1 and three-putting from 30 feet for a bogey on the second hole. On the 240-yard No. 4, his tee shot went so far left he was almost up against the grandstand. He chipped on, but it rolled about 15 feet long and he missed the comeback by inches for yet another bogey.
He closed the front nine with back-to-back bogeys and didn't make his first -- and only -- birdie until the par-5 No. 13.
'It was terrible on the front nine,' Els said. 'It was a little windy and a little cold as well, and I wasn't comfortable on the greens, either.'
On the par-5 15th, he hit a little bump-and-run from behind the green on his third shot, but it picked up speed on the slick surface and trickled off on the other side. It looked as if he might salvage a birdie with a nice recovery pitch, only to see the ball skirt the cup and go a foot past.
He missed from inside six feet on the next hole, giving him another bogey.
'When it was blowing, some of the greens are really firm. Therefore, it is very difficult to keep the ball on the greens,' Els said. 'Some of the pins were difficult as well.
'If you mishit a shot today,' he added, 'you really paid the penalty.'
Ogilvy learned that quickly.
He was within 50 yards of the green on the par-5 No. 2 after his second shot. But he landed his third in a sand trap, then flew the green, chipped to within 5 feet and three-putted.
Throwing up a snowman that early in the round is going to do some damage, and it didn't get much better after that.
Ogilvy pushed his drive on the par-4 No. 5 so far right it landed on pine straw in a grove of trees. He hit a low screamer that reached the green, but it was at the very bottom, leaving him about 30 feet to the cup.
He got close, only to see the ball break just below the hole and roll 3 feet past. The second putt curled around the hole but refused to drop in, forcing him to take a bogey.
The par-5 15th might just have summed up his entire day.
Just as Els' did, Ogilvy's second shot hit the green and rolled off the back. But after watching Els, the Aussie hit a perfect chip that trickled straight to the hole. The crowd began cheering, and playing partner Fred Couples held up his putter, certain it was good.
But it skirted the edge and rolled 3 feet by. It was still a birdie, but an eagle might have turned the entire day around.
Normally easygoing and sociable, the Aussie didn't stop to talk after his round.
Conditions aren't supposed to be much different Friday, which could make for another long day.
Els has only missed the cut once in his 13 previous trips to Augusta, and he's battled back before. After opening with a 79 in 2003, he rebounded with a 66 in the second round and finished in a tie for sixth.
'I have no other choice, do I?' Els said when asked if he could rally. 'I have to try and get something going and, hopefully by Sunday, be back to level par. ... It's back to the drawing board, basically.'
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