VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — Ernie Els is hoping to add a win at the BMW Championship to his resume.
Els has won a record seven World Match Play titles at Wentworth, but never claimed the BMW PGA Championship over the same course in 12 attempts.
The third-ranked South African is turning to the small white sticks to help correct an alignment problem that crept into his game after illness in March.
“I got sick and couldn’t practice,” Els said Wednesday. “I got into really bad habits. My ball positioning went out, my alignment went out. My swing got really loose and very long.”
Around that time Els switched coaches from longtime mentor David Leadbetter to Butch Harmon.
“I got technically out of whack,” Els said. “Now it’s just two little white sticks that we put on the ground just to check my body alignment and my target ball alignment. And I’ve got a little thing you strap onto your right arm to shorten the backswing a little bit. So that’s a couple of gadgets I’ve got.”
Els has never figured out why his PGA record is so poor compared to his Match Play success.
“To be honest, I’m not sure,” Els said. “You have to play four rounds of strokeplay instead of match play.”
Perhaps it is the greens, which don’t seem to handle the heavy PGA traffic.
“At the Match Play there is only a 16-man field and by the end only two guys, so the greens are very, very good,” Els said. “Here this week we have 156 guys trampling all over the greens, so they will get a little bumpy.”
The European Tour’s flagship event again has a strong field including Vijay Singh, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey and Luke Donald. British Open champion Padraig Harrington is skipping the event to prepare for next month’s U.S. Open.
Justin Rose will try to go one better than last year when he lost in a playoff to Anders Hansen.
Rose last week visited Royal Birkdale where, as a 17-year-old competitor at the British Open in 1998, he holed a chip shot at the final hole to finish fourth.
“I wanted to go back to relive that, and I learned a lot for when the Open returns there this July,” Rose said.
Colin Montgomerie — who won three straight from 1998 — will try to impress Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo, who has expressed faith that the 90th-ranked Scot could break out of a slump.
Also in the field is 1994 champion Jose Maria Olazabal, who is returning from a recent bout of rheumatism that cost him six months of action.
“There has been some progress, but I still lack stamina,” the two-time Masters champion said.