Els claims yet another victory
BY Bruce Young | European PGA Tour | 2005 Qatar Masters | Wrap | 13 Mar 2005
It took Ernie Els seventy holes to reach the lead at the Qatar Masters, but when he had done so, he wasn’t going to let it go. Any suggestion that he was under pressure after his opening 73 on day one was blown away with his weekend charge.
In a brilliant display of final round golf Els was around in 65 on a windswept, firm and demanding golf course where only five others amongst the top twenty finishers could break 70 and the closest anyone came to Els last day brilliance was 68.
Starting the last day five behind Henrik Stenson, Els was quickly into stride with birdies at the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th and when he birdied the par five 10th after two great hits into the wind, he had closed within two of the Swede and one of Richard Green. When Els made a birdie from 22 feet at the 12th with a beautifully confident putt he was within one and when Stenson missed the green and took bogey at the 13th and then found the rough with his tee shot at the 14th and took double bogey, Els was ahead on his own.
Richard Green stayed in the hunt throughout but bogeys at the par fives, the 10th and 18th would prove costly to him although a share of 3rd place was yet again another top ten for him. In his last seventeen stroke-play starts on the European Tour Green has now been inside the top ten on eight occasions. That does not include his 5th at the Australian Open and his win at the MasterCard Masters in Australia which occurred in the same time period.
Stenson produced a remarkable recovery from his disaster at 13 and 14 with three birdies in the last four holes and still had a chance to tie Els with an eagle at the last. His chip from just of the back left of the green went very close but he missed and he settled for second. The 28-year-old continues his further consolidation as one of the leading players in Europe however. Since graduating from the Challenge Tour in 2000 where he won three times and was twice second, he has improved to the level he is now at. His win last year at the Heritage has been followed by two top tens already this year prior to this week.
Pierre Fulke recorded his best European Tour finish since January of 2002, when second at the Johnnie Walker, with his share of third with Green. The Swede who played on the 2002 Ryder Cup winning team and was good enough to finish runner up to Steve Stricker at the Accenture in 2001 and win three times on the European Tour, now appears to be back after a time concentrating on his golf course design business.
Let’s not however forget the marvellous effort of the winner Els, who by just playing here this week gave the Qatar Masters a new look and credibility. It was his first appearance here. Now that he has won it may well encourage even better fields in the future although it may take something more tangible than just that. The game’s number three is a class act in every respect and it may be that this win will get him very close to the number two place by the completion of tomorrow’s Honda Classic. This was his 20th win on the European Tour and his capacity to turn up, tee up and win wherever he plays, leaves many of even his closest rivals suffering in comparison.
No sooner was Els finished with the ceremonies today than he was on a plane heading to London then Florida where tomorrow (Monday US time) he will play in a pro am with a close friend before teeing it up at the Bay Hill event this coming week where Woods and Singh will also appear. Then it is on to the Players Championship and then the Masters in an attempt to go one better then his near miss in 2004. He appears to be close to the peak of his game and it may just be that those series of near misses at Augusta (five top tens in succession) become a thing of the past. One thing for sure is that should he have the green jacket placed over his shoulders in four weeks time, it is hard to imagine anybody denying him the right to do so.
Of the Australasians to make the cut, Richard Green was 3rd, Marcus Fraser a wobbly closing stretch for 12th, Terry Pilkadaris 32nd, Adam Groom 60th and Adam Fraser 66th.
The European Tour and Asian Tours now head to he TCL Classic on Hainan Island in China.