London: South African golf ace Ernie Els has admitted that he had almost quit the sport in frustration over his putting problems, before winning the Open Championship last year.
Along with his four Major titles, Els has built a business empire worth over 100 million pounds and owns homes in Florida, his native South Africa and England, along with an enviable, globetrotting lifestyle, the Mirror reports.
Ahead of next week`s 142nd Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland, however, Els said that he has suffered `brutal` times during his long career due to putting woes, adding that the public did not appreciate the hurt, pain and sacrifices required to stay at the top of the sport for so long.
Els, who was haunted by Tiger Woods at the peak of his career, and lost the 2004 Open Championship in a play-off to unknown Todd Hamilton, said that the soul-searching and despair hit hardest behind the scenes, for which many players give up the game in the peak of their careers.
Stating that he had got very close to quitting his career like many other greats like Peter Alliss, Johnny Miller and Ben Hogan, Els however, said that he then had to think a lot before taking the decision to use the long putter, which he termed as `legalized cheating`.
Terming golf as a `crazy` game, Els, who has missed the cut at this week`s Scottish Open warm-up event, further said that even though golf is wonderful in many ways, it also made him sacrifice his time with his family as he had been living outside South Africa more than half his life.
According to Els, a golfer has to work hard for the rewards and face even more brutal disappointments as the game always is in the public eye, adding that a player is lucky if he has not been touched by every aspect of the game despite playing it as long as Els himself has done.