There is much to be admired about Ernie Els, who shot an even par 72 in the extremely windy first round of the Masters. Not only has Els won four major championships, but he also has emerged as a humanitarian.
He helps other people.
In last year’s Masters, though, he couldn’t help himself. On the first hole, he appeared to be engaged in a monumental confrontation with the yips. Or, worse yet, the heebie jeebies.
He six-putted that opening green. As Seve Ballesteros might have said upon six-putting, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I miss, I miss, I make.”
Els finished with a 5-over-par 9 on the hole. Golf fans, along with fellow players, were shocked.
There was little to be said. Out of politeness and privacy, people either left Els alone or applauded his bravery.
Here at the 2017 Masters, Els is making his 23rd appearance in this historic event. He is veteran touring pro, and veterans don’t get nervous. Or do they?
“I’m feeling good about my putting,” he said earlier in the week. “I don’t think about last year.”
Good thing, because the opening hole contained many of the earmarks of last year’s putting meltdown. Els yanked his second shot to the far left portion of the first green. The hole location was far right, more than 50 feet away.
Spectators may have gulped, but Els did not. His first putt rolled three feet past the cup, and he quickly and decisively sank his second putt.
Post 2016 Masters, here’s what Els did after six-putting: No, he didn’t throw the putter into Rae’s Creek, but, yes, he did permanently discard the offending club. He replaced it with a SeeMore putter.
Jim Grundberg, chief executive of SeeMore Putter Co., continues the story: “Ernie put a SeeMore in play way back in 2007, the year Zach Johnson won the Masters (with a SeeMore). But he signed a club deal with another manufacturer and so he moved on.
“Early in the 2016, he came by, picked up one of our putters and started practicing with it.”
But he didn’t use it in competition. At least not until after that 6-putt train wreck at the Masters.
Els has never been paid for using a SeeMore putter. Grundberg talks fondly about a meeting with Els, when the gentle giant from South Africa expressed his gratitude. Those familiar with Els know he is a very serious, very thoughtful, very articulate man — in golf and in life.
Els still occasionally switches putters, so there’s not always a SeeMore in his bag. But he has publicly credited the putter with saving his career.
The numbers back him up. In 2016, counting only the rounds in which he used the SeeMore, his statistical average for strokes gained:putting would have placed him among the top five on Tour.
Reflecting on the efforts by Els to raise significant amounts of money for autism research, Grundberg said, “What a wonderful guy. He is truly one of golf’s greatest ambassadors.”
Els will turn 48 in October. The PGA Tour Champions is waiting. He will earn a zillion dollars (okay, that’s an exaggeration).
And which model did Els choose among the many SeeMore putters that are available?
Whereas Johnson has won two major championships with a basic $169 SeeMore FGP Blade, Els selected a $395 SeeMore Nashville Studio Series mFGP DF (Deep Flange) model.
SeeMore putters are distinctive for their red-dot RifleScope Technology alignment system. If the putter face is misaligned, a red dot on the putter head becomes visible at address.
Els, who birdied 13, 15, 16 and 17 on the back nine of Thursday’s opening round at the Masters, is proving to be something of a sharp shooter. All that 6-putt nonsense is a thing of the past.