GAINESVILLE, Va. – Ernie Els's prep for the Quicken Loans National wasn't ideal. The Big Easy spent time in a local hospital with what he thought was a kidney stone, but it turned out to be back spasms.
"Normally the pain shoots into my left side and the pain was kind of ... on my back and went to the right," Els said. "I thought maybe it's a kidney stone. Pretty sure. I guess I'm just a wuss."
He rebounded with a very macho 7-under 64 Thursday to sit one stroke off the lead held by Ryo Ishikawa and fellow countryman Retief Goosen. It was his lowest round in an official PGA Tour event since the 2011 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Els's round was highlighted by a gorgeous approach into the par-5 14th that flew to the back of the green and rolled off a mound to 10 feet for eagle. He drained the putt and gave a little fist pump and a thumbs up to the crowd.
Els added two birdies coming in and gained something he's been lacking lately – confidence.
"You can't play this game without confidence," Els said. "I didn't have the most perfect warmup into the week. I felt good this morning, and my putter felt great."