AVONDALE, La. – The citizens of New Orleans can empathize with Ernie Els – they, too, know all about hangovers.
For Els, the reigning British Open champion, he has just one top-10 finish since his triumph at Royal Lytham, and none this season.
Yet here is the Big Easy, playing well in the Big Easy, and just four shots off Lucas Glover’s lead at the Zurich Classic.
Last year, in his only other appearance at TPC Louisiana, Els lost in a playoff to Jason Dufner. Needless to say, he enjoys the venue.
“You just want to have a chance,” Els said after a second-round 69. “I haven’t had too many chances this year. I’ve been very quiet this year with my game, to be honest. I just have to stay patient.”
After the Open, he said, there was definitely a “hangover effect.” His lone top 10 came at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November, when he tied for second in the limited-field event.
“There was a lot of golf to be played and I wasn’t mentally ready to play it,” he said. “But this year, I’m feeling fresh and feeling revived, and it just hasn’t quite been there yet.”
Els worked hard to improve his putting, even briefly flirting with the conventional putter in Thailand, before vowing to stick with the belly putter until it is banned.
By focusing so much on his putting, though, Els essentially abandoned his long game, which helps explain why he ranks 125th in total driving and 183rd in greens in regulation. Quietly, he finished T-13 at the Masters.
“I’m just waiting for the whole thing to click and I’m getting a lot closer,” he said.