Ernie rested and ready for Houston

SA Open Championship: Round 4Ernie Els, along with most of the world’s best, will test his game out at the Shell Houston Open This week, where 144 players will vie for the title ahead of the annual trip to Augusta.

“There’s no perfect formula for getting ready for any of the four majors – you either play the week before or you don’t. I’ve mixed it up and done both, but this time it’s good to be in Houston, for all of the above reasons and also to put those shots that you need for Augusta into play under tournament conditions,” he said.

It’s a big week in golf and this year’s edition has 72 PGA Tour champions in the field, so half of the competitors know how to win on the biggest stage.

There has been plenty of talk about 2010 Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen having a real shot at The Masters, but there is no way to predict a major. Els can tell you how quickly it can go your way, and his victory at The Open in 2012 is testimony to that.

Experience is crucial and he’ll be rearing to take another bite at Augusta, where he finished second in both 2000 and 2004. Some 11 years later and The Big Easy is keen to see how he fares next to the big-hitting youngsters of the modern game.

“In the weeks leading up to the Masters you tend to work on shots that you are going to be playing out there. You also want to try to get your short game sharp. The Masters has that effect on everyone; we’ve all got one eye on that week. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, though,” he said.

Two weeks ago Els tied for 22nd place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he carded 68 on Sunday to finish the week on 10-under-par. After a week off it’s time for the four-time major winner to see how ready he is for the first major of 2015, and the acid test will be this week’s Shell Houston Open.

“In recent years the TOUR has done a great job setting it up to create a similar kind of challenge to Augusta National – you get the shaved banks, no heavy rough, those little collection areas around the greens and a high number on the stimp meter. For me and for a lot of the top players, that’s what makes it a great place to be the week before the Masters,” he said.

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