History tells Ernie Els to keep foot on the gas at Augusta

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Ernie Els has been in this position before, but with a rate of success that is lower than the South African expects. Els stayed steady Friday in the second round of the Masters to post an even-par 72 that included a relatively equal amount of mistakes and successes.

The lowlights of his round included a mis-club on the par-4 fifth, coming up short on the par-4 seventh and a couple of missed putts. Els still made birdies, however, going 4-under on the four par 5s to stay within shouting distance. He will start the weekend nine shots behind Jordan Spieth.

“You’re going to do that around here,” Els said of the mistakes he made at Augusta National. “I didn’t get it up and down when I needed to. But I felt in control, patient. And I feel I’ve got a couple rounds in me when I get it all together.”

In the early 2000s, Els had an exemplary record around Augusta National with five consecutive top-6 finishes that included runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2004, years when Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson won.

The loss to Mickelson by a stroke was a personal lowlight for “The Big Easy,” the nickname many people use for Els, even if it isn’t particularly accurate when it comes to his demeanor. While tall, 6 foot 3 inches, Els is actually quite hard on himself.

Since that loss to Mickelson, Els struggled around the Alister MacKenzie layout and produced only two rounds in the 60s in 28 tries before this Masters tournament. There were also four missed cuts and a best finish of T-13 in 2013.

Els, 45, still believes he has something left in the tank, but at the same time knows nine shots is a lot of ground to cover. In 21 Masters starts, Els has seen just about everything, including Greg Norman’s collapse from a four-shot lead through two rounds. The year was 1996, and Nick Faldo ended up winning by five shots after Norman’s final-round 78.

Faldo shot weekend rounds of 73-67 to clinch that victory, and Els has even more grandiose plans.

“I’d like to shoot two 67s, let’s see where that takes me,” Els said. “That’s about as good as a man can do. I don’t want to wish anything bad, but if he takes his foot off the gas and gives you a bit of hope to catching him, I would love two 67’s.”

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