Kapalua: Former winner Ernie Els rediscovered his putting touch to set the early pace in the second round of the Tournament of Champions with a sizzling nine-under-par 64 on Friday.
Six strokes behind overnight in the PGA Tour’s season-opening event, the smooth-swinging South African piled up nine birdies in a flawless display to post a 10-under total of 136.
“I needed something like that to get me closer to the leaders,” Els told reporters. “I don’t think I’ll be leading after today, but at least it got me back into the pack.”
On another surprisingly calm day at the picturesque Kapalua Resort, the 2003 champion covered the back nine in five-under 32 to finish one shot ahead of big-hitting American Dustin Johnson (66).
Australian Jason Day was a further two strokes back at seven under after shooting a seven-birdie 66.
Swede Carl Pettersson and American Jonathan Byrd, co-leaders overnight after firing matching 66s, were among Friday’s late starters in the elite winners-only event.
Els, who triumphed here in 2003 with a tournament record of 31-under 261, was delighted to regain his touch on the greens.
“I hit a lot of putts last night on the putting green trying to get the same feel I had when I won the South African Open,” he said, referring to his victory in Durban last month. “And today was obviously better.
“I get a little tentative every now and again on the short ones and I’m trying to work myself through it, just trying to get comfortable on a certain technique.
“If I can get the putting back to where my long game is, I’m going to have good seasons.”
Els, a three-times major champion, totalled 29 putts on Friday after needing 34 in the opening round.