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Putting breakthrough for Els

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SOUTHHAMPTON, Bermuda – Following his first round at Port Royal Golf Club Ernie Els went directly to the practice putting green to work on a new stroke that he said is still unfamiliar.

On Wednesday the new stroke held up well on his way to victory at the Grand Slam of Golf. He holed birdie putts of 6, 4 and 35 feet at Nos. 14, 15 and 16, respectively, to close out his round and edge David Toms by a stroke.

“I wanted to find a more natural stroke that fits me,” said Els, whose putting average has ballooned to 1.797, 1.795 and 1.768 the last three years on Tour. “When I putt my best I stand over the ball like I’m going to hit a 7-iron. It helps me release my putter blade.”

But his new putting program was only partially behind Els’ Bermuda breakthrough.

“I’d like to thank Louis (Oosthuizen) and Phil Mickelson for not showing up and giving us a bit of Christmas money,” smiled Els, who was the first alternate into the event when Mickelson withdrew.