Els Refuses to Give Up in His Pursuit of Tiger

Ernie Els said before the US Masters that he wanted to make a grand comeback and take a shot at Tiger Woods’ number one spot in the Official World Rankings.

To help him in his three-year plan, he signed a new equipment deal with Callaway six weeks before the Masters, ending his stint with Titleist.

Though it didn’t help him much at Augusta National last week, when he missed the cut, he turned in a great first round at the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head Island.

The South African star shot a first round of six-under-par 65 to trail Jerry Kelly by two strokes after the opening round, and is looking good again.

Changing equipment is a major move in golf, a bit like a Formula One driver changing teams. The 37-year-old Els, though, is determined to make things right after his Masters failure.

He says on his website:

“It’s hard for me to put any kind of positive spin on things when you’ve just missed your first cut in a major championship for the best part of seven years. To be honest, though, it makes me even more determined to get my game back to where it was four or five years ago, when I was winning all the time. I have to keep working even harder. That’s the simple truth of it.”

The three-time Major champion’s last win was at the South Africa Airways Open.

While he is at Hilton Head this week, Els may just bump into Indian Jeev Milkha Singh, who is causing a bit of a stir half way around the world in Shanghai.

Singh’s absence from this week’s Volvo China Open at the Shanghai Silport Golf Club is not making him very popular with tournament organisers, who feel he has let them down.

After all, it was his victory at last year’s event that launched a great run during which he won three more tournaments, including the Volvo Masters in Spain.

Jeev decided against returning to Asia to defend his title after making the cut in his debut at the Masters. Organisers felt he owed them at least his presence with the tournament providing the platform for him to revive his career.

The China event is jointly sanctioned by the Asian Tour and the European Tour and provides golfers like Singh and other Asian hopefuls the chance to earn full playing rights in Europe if they can win the tournament.

Indeed, a little-known Chinese golfer has his chance for glory after taking a share of the first-round lead with Frenchman Raphael Jacquelin in Shanghai.

His name is Huang Mingjie and both he and Jacquelin shot three-under-par 68s for a one-stroke lead over American Gary Rusnak.

Huang, playing his third China Open, was quoted on the Asian Tour official site as saying:

“It is my first time leading a tournament. I shall keep my pace and hope to play it safe.”

Huang is hoping to follow his compatriot Liang Wen-chong as a European Tour champion. Liang won the recent Singapore Masters to become the second Chinese golfer, after Zhang Lian-wei, to win on the European Tour.

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