Els eyes putting gain with vision gurus
London: The eyes have it on the greens, according to Ernie Els who is desperately striving to break back into the world`s top 50 to secure a cherished place in this year`s Masters.
The former world number one, who has slipped to 57th in the rankings after struggling for form for much of last year, says his putting has improved significantly since he began working with two vision specialists last week.
"To use a cliché, they have literally opened up my eyes about putting again, and have brought back good memories of what I used to do," Els, 42, told Reuters before teeing off in Thursday`s opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open.
"I am starting to focus on my putting, my concentration on different things, and it certainly helped last week."
In his first tournament of the year, Els lost out in a three-way playoff on Sunday for the European Tour`s Volvo World Champions event at the Fancourt Links near George in his native South Africa.
"I was one of the best putters in the world in the nineties and the early 2000s," said Els, a three-times major winner. "If my putting comes around, I can really win some good tournaments again because I feel healthy and I feel good about my game."
Els, who was winless on the U.S. PGA Tour last season, recently switched to a belly putter after mainly struggling on the greens in recent years.
However, he is delighted he decided to consult with Dr Sherylle Calder, an eye specialist who helped the Springbok, All Black and England ruby union teams enhance their eye-hand co-ordination, concentration and other visual performance skills.
"I have been working on good stuff with my eyes and there are a lot of good positives for me at the moment," said Els, an 18-times winner on the PGA Tour.
"It all comes down to a bit of confidence. I feel more confident than I was last year and I can`t be worrying about top 50s and the Masters. I`ve just got to play, let it go and I`ll be fine."
Calder, who played hockey for South Africa, used her Eye Think programme to help England win the 2003 rugby World Cup. She then switched her allegiance back to her homeland and helped South Africa beat England to land the 2007 rugby World Cup.
Els, whose last tournament victory came at the four-man PGA Grand Slam of Golf in 2010, accepts that his window of opportunity at golf`s highest level is beginning to close as he approaches his mid-40s.
"You can`t beat time," he smiled. "For any professional sportsman, the older you get, your time gets shorter. I know that."
Els needs to be back in the world`s top 50 when the rankings are issued the week before the Apr. 5-8 Masters to gain a spot in the year`s opening major at Augusta National.
"It`s weird (to be outside the top 50) but I put myself in this position by not playing great," the smooth-swinging South African said. "It`s a nice challenge for me.
"I feel good about my game, I feel good about my year and, at the end of the day, only I can change that. If I do qualify (for the Masters), it would obviously be great. It means I am going to play good golf.
"If I don`t, I will just keep plugging away. That`s the only thing I can do."