Els drops coach Leadbetter for Harmon
Ernie Els has dumped swing coach David Leadbetter in favour of Butch Harmon, the South African said on Tuesday following a practice round at the U.S. Masters.
Els's split with Leadbetter, his mentor for nearly 20 years, is the latest step in a career makeover that includes a switch to new equipment, a revised schedule and a move to Florida.
While the South African's overhaul has been under way for some time, his parting with Leadbetter came as a shock, the world number three having recently notched his first PGA Tour win in nearly four years at last month's Honda Classic.
Els started working with Harmon, Tiger Woods's former swing guru, three weeks later at the World Golf Championship at Doral.
"David Leadbetter is a very good friend of mine, he's been a mentor of mine for a very long time," Els told reporters. "I've been with him close to 20 years for our friendship and working relationship.
"I just wanted to go get some different -- get a different feel, get different words coming towards me, and just find a bit more about how Butch is teaching.
"He's obviously had a lot of success with a lot of players, and I love the way he changes people's games."
How the coaching change will impact Els when the year's first major starts on Thursday remains unclear.
Since his victory in Florida, Els, a three-times major winner, has struggled with indifferent form and illness, missing the cut in Tampa and withdrawing from the Arnold Palmer event and Houston Open.
The Masters has been on top of Els's "to-do" list for a long time. He has come agonisingly close to adding the title to his collection, posting five consecutive top-10 results from 2000, including runner-up finishes in 2000 and 2004.
But his last three visits to Augusta National have not gone as well, with 27th and 47th-place finishes before missing his first Masters cut since 1995 last year.
"It could go either way," said Els. "When I do those moves and I get it in the right slot, I'm hitting really wonderful golf shots.
"To do that around Augusta, knowing with all of the hazards and trouble around this place, that's another story.
"Emotionally, hopefully I can be right on Thursday and really trust the swing and trust my different moves."
April 9, 2008