Reuters - Mon, 15 Mar 00:59:00 2010
When Ernie Els finished tied for 67th in the Honda Classic last week he responded in the only way he knew how - he picked up a bucket of balls and went out on the range.
The tall Els practised until dark on the Sunday and did the same the next day until he discovered that he needed to adjust his set-up to the ball.
"I found something just before dark and I couldn't wait to get out here and try it. I kept working on it and basically by Thursday I started getting a bit of an idea," he said.
He put the idea into practice and on Sunday the 40-year-old South African claimed his first tour win in two years in the WGC-CA Championship at Doral.
Els's last victory, at the Honda two years ago, ended a four year barren spell for him at US tour events but while he talked up his chances then, this time he is striking a considered tone.
"I said a bit too much last time I won," Els said after he beat compatriot Charl Schwartzel by four strokes on Sunday.
"I was a bit too cocky. I want to just enjoy this one. This took so much work to win.
"A lot of people have said that the older you get, the tougher it becomes to win and that's very true.
"I'm 40 years old and it feels like in my twenties I had so many chances and I didn't quite take them," he said.
Els suffered a serious knee injury in 2005 and his wins slowed down in the years that followed, but with his consistently quality display at Doral he showed he still has the ability to beat the best.
"When you are older you don't get so many chances, so you've got to try and take them when they come," he added.
"This is nice. I will have a bit more confidence now, I'm sure, but I just want to keep working hard.
"I know what works for me now and that's hard work. So I'll keep working hard.
"But to be back in that group of players who are really performing well, I feel honoured."
Els has won three Majors and 17 victories on the US PGA Tour and with the US Masters less than a month away, he has cause for confidence but insists this time that practice, not predictions, will be his style.
"Last time I won, two years ago, I got all carried away and I thought I was going to win Augusta. This time I just want to take this in. It's great but next week I am going to work hard again.
"I've got really get these things drilled out a bit more and really be comfortable with it and get my ball flight perfect for Augusta."