Big Easy geared up for Durban

2013-01-10 00:00

ERNIE Els has jetted into Durban from Cape Town where he enjoyed some family time over the festive season, and he is now ready to tee-off at the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club today and get his 2013 schedule out the blocks.

Looking relaxed, Els spoke to the press in Durban yesterday and, while not giving much away, was his usual “easy” self, quietly confident of being in the leading pack come Sunday afternoon.

Els said: “Durban has provided me with success in the past and I have fond memories of playing here on a course I rate as one of my favourites.

“It’s the perfect way to start the year, four rounds of tough, competitive golf, in a strong field.

“It’s hard to predict anything in golf, but I will see how the course plays and take it from there.”

Els was under no illusions that it won’t be plain sailing over the next four days. The last time he was in Durban, for the SA Open, the winning score was 25-under par, a benchmark which will be hard to beat.

“There has been some harsh weather in Durban over the past few months and I have played this course too many times to see it being so easy again,” he added.

“The wind is also a huge factor and if that comes up, it’s a whole different game and approach.”

However, Els did recognise that the course was looking better than in 2010, saying: “When I walked into the clubhouse here in Durban, I saw Peter Matkovich, who is one of the world’s premier course designers and that told me all was well.

“He knows how to grass and I have great confidence in him.

“It cannot be worse than it was in 2010 and it’s great to see this course in great shape.”

Looking ahead, Els said he had made some changes and would be playing in the Middle East where he has not been for a few years.

“After this tournament, I will play in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai, have a few weeks off, then head for Los Angeles, playing the Match Play, a few tournaments in Florida and then of course, the Masters. It’s a full schedule with lots of golf,” he added.

Of course, the icing on the cake for Els this year will be the defence of his (British) Open title which he won against all expectations at St Andrew’s last year.

“I can’t wait to get back as it’s a highlight for me to go to the Open Championship, especially at Muirfield. It’s awesome,” he said.

Asked about his view on the long putter and his reaction to what world golfing authorities have decided in banning the putter, he said: “It took me a while to get used to it and I won the Open with a long putter.

“It’s definitely not a magic wand and takes time getting used to, with a lot of work needed.

“I have seen players return to the short putter, but, personally, I am not for the ban, but I will go with whatever the rulemakers decide.

“If these people decide such a decision is for the better of the game, then so be it. I am not for it and, in essence, it’s not actually the putter that’s banned, but the way it’s anchored, coming into contact with the body.”

Els added that golfing authorities had approached him for his views on the matter and his outlook was no secret.

However, his focus for the next four days will be to post the best score around the Durban Country Club course.

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