Friday, 19 March 2010
WGC - CA Championship - Final Round  (Getty Images)
WGC - CA Championship - Final Round (Getty Images)

Ernie Els ended two years without a win in superb style at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship in Miami, and became The European Tour's all-time leading money winner in the process.

The 40 year old captured the second of this season's WGC events - and his 63rd professional title - by a commanding four shot margin after what developed into a straight head-to-head with his fellow South African Charl Schwartzel.

“I want to just enjoy this one, this took so much work to win,” Els revealed afterwards. “A lot of people have said that the older you get, the tougher it becomes to win, and that's very true. 

“I'm 40 years old, and it feels like in my 20s I had so many chances and I didn't quite take them. Now that you're older, you don't get as many chances, so you've got to try to take them when they come. 

“I'll have a bit more confidence now, I'm sure, but I just want to keep working hard. I know what works for me now, and that's hard work. Just to be back in that group of players who are really performing well - I feel honoured to be back in there.”

Three strokes further back in joint third were German Martin Kaymer, American Matt Kuchar and Ireland's Padraig Harrington, whose closing 72 was never going to give him a chance on a day of low scoring.

With the win Els returns to the Official World Golf Ranking Top Ten, a place where he has spent more weeks - 759 now - than any other player since the rankings started in 1986.

"I've had a tough run and I really wanted to play well," he said after a 66 gave him an 18 under par total on the same Doral course where he held off Tiger Woods to win the 2002 Genuity Championship.

"I just wanted to prove it myself for once. I had to really trust the changes I've just made. The wind was blowing and you had to hit solid shots.

"Charl came at me all day and I have to take a lot of positives out of this."

It was his second victory in the event - he lifted the title at Mount Juliet in Ireland in 2004.

Seven times over the weekend Schwartzel, twice a winner on his home country already this year, drew level with the man he has looked up to since he was a youngster.

The 25 year old rising star could never get his nose in front, however, and the crucial moments came on the 14th and 15th.

First Els saved par from 24 feet to stay one in front and then, when both were bunkered at the short next, Schwartzel arrived to find his ball plugged.

He went from there into the same back bunker Els had found and although both got up and down from there the gap was two.

Schwartzel almost hit the hole with his approach to the 16th, but left an 11 foot birdie attempt short and when he bogeyed again on the next after Els had birdied from five feet there was only one place the €1,022,353 first prize was going.

It makes Els the leading career money-winner on The European Tour again, taking him ahead of Colin Montgomerie with €24,473,052.

“All credit to Ernie, he played flawless golf today,” said Schwartzel.

“Whenever anyone makes six birdies and no bogeys on a windy day like this, you're almost bound to win. I thought I played really good, gave a good charge - I was on his heels all the time.

“I got tied with him after ten. And then it was close all the way, and he made a big save on 14. It's a turning point, but in my mind, still one shot in it. I felt like I hit a good shot on 15, but the wind slightly turned on me, ball came up short and plugged, and that was a bit of a killer blow.”

Harrington, who fell out of the reckoning with a hat-trick of bogeys from the 13th, said: "I obviously struggled a bit all day.

"Those three holes were pretty simple up and downs and I didn't make them. I was hanging on a knife-edge all day, but I learnt a few things - as you always do in these situations.

"My bunker play was just not with it and my pitching could have been a bit better. You don't really see it until you are under pressure.

"I'm happy - I need to be competing and testing myself."

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell fired a closing 66 to climb from 16th to joint sixth with England's Paul Casey, Spaniard Alvaro Quiros, American Bill Haas and Australian Alistair Presnell.

"I never thought for one second I could get into the hunt, but this is a great boost for me," said McDowell, who had been in danger of falling outside the world's top 50.

Casey has now finished second, fourth and sixth in his last three starts in America, but needed to win to have a chance of moving to a career-best second in the world.



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