Can Ernie finish off in style?

Ernie Els goes into this week’s Tour Championship well and truly out of the spotlight, and sitting 22nd in the FedEx Cup points standings, he needs little short of a miracle to claim the coveted $10-million cheque. A win is his only route to glory, but that in itself is not enough – Els needs a myriad of other results to go his way as well. However, gauging from recent history, it certainly isn’t impossible.

“In theory, anyone can win this thing, including me. Last year’s winner Bill Haas was in 29th place on the points list coming into East Lake and he won it, so anything is possible,“ he said.

Writing off the Open champion would be a big mistake at East Lake this week as well. Intriguingly, a fantasy preview to the Tour Championship which factors in fairways hit, greens in regulation, par breakers and strokes-gained putting places Els 30th in the field. But, on a course that suits him, this will count for very little once the first ball is teed up on Thursday. And, as his prior performances in the Tour Championship show, the big South African will have no shortage of successful experience to call on.

“My record on this golf course is pretty solid. This will be my 16th career appearance in the Tour Championship, and although not all of them have been here at East Lake, I’ve had a bunch of top-10 finishes. I think it’s eight in total now. This is one of those golf courses that I do enjoy playing. It suits my eye, and I think my scoring over the years reflects that,” said the four time major winner.

Admittedly, the Big Easy comes into the Tour Championship on the back of some mediocre form. While he’s only missed one cut since his Open triumph, he’s failed to record a top 25 finish. He entered the playoffs in 11th place, but has now slipped well down the list. However, perhaps a week of downtime may be just what the doctor ordered for Els, and he might well be all set to round off an already successful year with one of his biggest victories yet.

“The good thing is I had a nice rest at home after the BMW at Crooked Stick and, to be honest, I really needed it. Everything is in good shape, I feel fresh mentally and physically and I’m pretty excited about this week,” he said.

But even if the inevitable transpires and Els isn’t able to put the coveted prize next to his recently acquired Claret Jug, a strong finish or even victory are of the utmost importance to him.

“Every week of the year I only ever play to win and obviously this tournament is no exception. I’d love to add this one to my CV. Obviously winning the Open – winning any major, in fact – makes a good season great. But there’s plenty of golf left to play and I’d love to get another victory under my belt,” said the Big Easy.

By Michael Todt

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