Ernie Els is bidding to become only the second player after Tiger Woods to successfully defend the WGC-Cadillac Championship title when he tackles Doral Golf Resort and Spa’s ‘Blue Monster’ course this week.
Woods won the US$8.5million event from 2002-03 and 2005-07, and Els now has the opportunity to match the American’s feats after edging out his close friend and compatriot Charl Schwartzel by four shots 12 months ago to capture his second WGC title.
By his own astonishingly high standards Els’ game betrayed a few signs of rustiness at the recent WGC-Accenture Match Play, where he was defeated in the second round by American J.B. Holmes, but the South African arrives in Miami in fine fettle after some fine tuning on the range.
He said: “It’s great to be back. Obviously last year was quite a battle with Charl, so it was nice getting a win in a World Golf Championships event, and especially here at Doral, where I’ve been coming for such a long time. I didn’t have a lot of form coming into this week last year, but something seemed to click over the course of a couple of days, and I got my game together and really had a good week.
“This year it’s kind of similar again. I had a bit of a slow start to the year again, and I haven’t played too much, either. I was a little rusty last week [at the Honda Classic], especially in those high winds. I hit a couple of awkward shots, and on the greens I wasn’t that sharp either. So I’ve been working on a couple of things, and hopefully I can start turning things around now.”
As he did 12 months ago Els again invited Schwartzel to stay with him at his house in Florida, but on this occasion last year’s runner-up opted instead to spend time with The 2010 Open Champion, Louis Oosthuizen, at Old Palm Golf Club, a brand new Golfing Community located in Palm Beach Gardens.
Els said: “Charl actually stayed with me before we went out to the [WGC-Accenture] Match Play. He and [wife] Rosalind came to stay with us for about five days. But when he came out after the Match Play, he stayed at the Old Palm with Louis, as they have rented two homes there. So the invitation went out, but he knocked me back!”