Big Play Ernie Els's prodigious drives were a hot topic at the Mercedes, but it was deft putts like his 100-foot lag on 13 that were the real keys to victory

January 20, 2003

It seemed as though the only thing ESPN's announcers could talk
about at the Mercedes was how far Ernie Els was blasting his new
driver, but on Sunday evening Els said that the key to his
victory was a brilliant two-putt from 100 feet at the par4 13th
(above). After grazing the hole with a gorgeous lag putt and then
coolly rolling in the five-foot comebacker, Els picked up an
important stroke on his nearest pursuer, K.J. Choi, who
three-jacked from 80 feet. Choi would never threaten again as Els
cruised to an eight-shot triumph. Yes, it was fun to watch Els
bank his ball off the Plantation course's sloping fairways on the
way to the occasional 400-yard tee shot, but distance control
with the flat stick on the gigantic greens is what kept him in
command during his record-breaking win. Els was laser sharp with
his lag putting during the final round, avoiding a single
three-putt. He has been nicknamed the Big Easy because of his
languid swing and unflappable demeanor, but the moniker is just
as apt for his putting stroke, one of the Tour's best. Els's win
proves that even in this age of the long ball, Tour players still
drive for show and putt for dough.

TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ESPN (TOP LEFT) COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (3) Brad Redding, 40, director of instruction at Hartefeld National in Avondale, Pa., is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher. COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (3) 100-FOOT PUTT
COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (3) FIVE-FOOT PUTT

THE TIP

DISTANCE CONTROL is the key to great putting. My favorite drill
for developing this feel requires two pillows and a putter. Put
the pillows about six feet apart and stand between them.

THE CLUBHEAD should travel the same distance on the backswing as
it does on the follow-through, with a longer putt requiring a
longer stroke. The pictures here show how far I'd move the club
for a 100-footer like the one Els had on the 13th hole; the arc
in red (right) shows how far to swing for a five-footer.

ALL STROKES, no matter the distance, should last the same amount
of time. That means the putter moves quicker on putts with longer
strokes.

OUR TOP TEACHER SAYS...

"I'm tired of players and TV announcers always harping
on driving distance. Yes, guys hit it farther today than they
ever have, but I just saw a replay of a Palmer-Player match from
the 1960s, and Arnie was busting it 290 off the tee. Last year
Els's average drive was 284 yards."

"K.J. Choi is refreshing. In an age of whippersnappers with
cookie-cutter textbook swings, Choi has a jerky, homemade action
that would make Chi Chi Rodriguez envious."

"Ty Tryon will win a Tour event this year. The kid's got
game."

"NFL referee Ron Blum, a club pro who teaches out of Blue
Rock Springs Golf Course in Vallejo, Calif., was needlessly
lambasted for delaying his decision to review a call in
Saturday's Steelers-Titans game. Unsure of the rule, Ron did what
any good golf official would do--he reviewed the rule book before
making a decision."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)