Ernie Els struggled to a 37 on the front nine Saturday, but his day turned around on a gamble right out of playing partner John Daly’s much derided playbook.
On the 366-yard, par-4 10th, he and Daly both made birdie after attempting to drive the green. Els went on to make three more back-nine birdies and shoot 69. He is one under for the tournament, six shots behind the leader, Tiger Woods.
Despite the strong finish, Els seemed resigned to finishing behind Woods on Sunday.
“I’ve got to play the round of my life,” he said. “If I was not a golfer, a fan on the couch, I’d be putting my house on him.”
Els tried to be aggressive off the tee all day. Both players used driver on just about every hole except for the par 3s.
Els thought he would need to get to 10 under by Sunday afternoon to have a chance to win, so he was attacking the course in an attempt to post a really low number.
“I was trying to shoot 65 today,” he said. “I just have to shoot 61 tomorrow, that’s all,” he added, drawing a laugh.
The Big Easy is still trying to get his golfing groove back after knee surgery in 2004. He’s had a handful of international victories in the last couple of years but hasn’t won on Tour since 2004. He had a strong showing in the British Open last month when he tied for fourth. At Southern Hills, Els has had a fairly colorful scorecard, chalking up 14 birdies, nine bogeys and two doubles.
“If I can eliminate these problems, I can start challenging in these tournaments again,” Els said.
Daly was steady until he bogeyed four of the last seven holes to shoot three-over 73. He is three over for the tournament and tied for 17th place.