Els (68) off to best start in 10 years at TPC Sawgrass


PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Ernie Els is looking to battle through the illusions architect Pete Dye created at TPC Sawgrass. He is also looking to turn back the clock with a short putter, using a stroke that worked in his youth.

So far, so good for Els, who opened with a 4-under 68 Thursday, his best start in 10 years at The Players Championship. He’s aiming to end a run of four consecutive missed cuts here.

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Els is finally starting to see what he believes are the true lines off tee boxes, not the illusions Dye created.

“The tee boxes here all aim right,” Els said. “Pete Dye’s a genius, but he’s a sinister man. I’ve always felt uncomfortable on the tees here ... I can’t just aim down the tee, because I’m aiming 20 yards right.”

Els went back and forth with the belly putter and short putter last year. He’s using the short putter again, and he used it well Thursday, requiring just 25 putts. Of course, it helped that he holed a 112-yard wedge shot for eagle at the fourth hole, and also chipped in for birdie at the 14th.

“Seems like we talked about the putter all last year,” Els said. “I’m on the short putter, and I’m getting used to it. It’s been good.”

Els had eight one-putts on Thursday. He said he has been looking at his stroke in old footage, and he liked what he saw watching video of his stroke at the 1996 Buick Classic.

“I had a certain way of putting, almost a pendulum out of my chest,” Els said. “I’m trying to get back to that kind of feel.”