ORLANDO, Fla. – It’s been written millions of times but in journalism school you’re taught to root for the story. Cheer for no one, against no one, but hope for the best story to emerge.
Seeing Ernie Els near the top of the leaderboard here at the Arnold Palmer Invitational (he shot a first-round 68) is a great story, and one that would be even better if he could contend at the Masters in two weeks. Victory two weeks ago at the WGC-CA Championship showed us that the Big Easy has one more run left in his 40-year-old body. He’s struggled with injuries and confidence issues over the past few years and it was great to see Els in the winner’s circle again.
Fast forward two weeks to the Masters. No one in this era has been stung more by Augusta National than Els. He could practically smell the green jacket in 2004 when he led by three shots on the back nine. But Phil Mickelson made birdie on five of the last seven holes to beat him. Els has finished sixth or better five times at Augusta National but yet he hasn’t contended there much since that devastating loss to Mickelson. He’s missed the cut at the Masters the last three years.
With all the focus around Tiger Woods at the Masters this year, it would be the ultimate vindication for Els to find a way to get around the National in top form one more time.