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Ernie Els hopes to return to form in Hawaii
January 14, 2010

After failing to win anywhere in the world last year, Ernie Els has decided to focus his playing schedule on the U.S. PGA Tour for the next six months, starting with this week’s Sony Open.

South African Els is a double champion at the palm-fringed Waialae Country Club and has long cherished Hawaii as a happy hunting ground to kick-start his season.

“Waialae Country Club is a golf course I’ve played many, many times over the years and with that familiarity comes a fair amount of comfort,” Els said in the build-up to Thursday’s opening round.

“Hawaii has always been a good place to start the year for me. I’ve played some great golf here, winning three tournaments in the space of 12 months not so long ago.

“Well, it doesn’t seem that long ago but in actual fact it was 2003-04. It’s probably about time I updated that with some new entries … who knows, maybe this week?”

Els, a winner of more than 60 tournaments worldwide, clinched the PGA Tour’s season-opening Mercedes Championship in January 2003, along with the Sony Open the following week.

He went on to retain his Sony Open crown in 2004 and has always enjoyed the challenge presented by Waialae’s small greens and fickle winds.

“It’s also quite a narrow course,” Els, popularly known as the Big Easy, said on his official website of the venue for the first full-field event of the PGA Tour season.

“Combine that with the ocean breezes and you really have to get your golf ball under control to score well. I’m obviously looking forward to it.”

A three-times major champion who has been a regular member of the world’s top 10 for the last decade-and-a-half, Els is now ranked a relatively low 17th after a winless 2009 campaign.

In a bid to raise his golfing stock, the popular South African will focus on the PGA Tour for the first half of the season.

“Taking everything into account, I felt that it was the right thing to do for my golf,” said the 40-year-old, whose home is now based in West Palm Beach, Florida.

“And it limits my travelling for the first three or four months of the year, which is something I’m keen to do wherever possible. After a nice long break, I’m raring to go.”

Els faces a strong field at Waialae where former world number one and 2005 champion Vijay Singh is also making his first appearance of the season.

Also taking part is American world number three Steve Stricker, plus all of last year’s major winners—Argentina’s Angel Cabrera (Masters), Americans Lucas Glover (U.S. Open) and Stewart Cink (British Open) and South Korean Yang Yong-eun (PGA Championship).

American Zach Johnson, the 2007 Masters champion, defends the title he won by two shots at Waialae last year.

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