Bittersweet week for Els in New Orleans
Ernie Els was happy to savour the positives after ending a bittersweet week with a playoff defeat.
LOUISIANA - Ernie Els was happy to savour the positives after ending a bittersweet week with a playoff defeat at the New Orleans Classic in Avondale, Louisiana, on Sunday.
In pursuit of his first PGA Tour title in two years, Els lost to American Jason Dufner on the second extra hole at the TPC Louisiana after narrowly missing a six-foot birdie putt for victory on the previous hole.
However, the smooth-swinging South African was delighted to challenge for the title, having started the final round two shots off the pace before closing with a flawless five-under-par 67.
"I came close, so it's disappointing but good," three-times major winner Els told reporters after being trumped by Dufner's two-putt birdie at the par-five 18th, the second extra hole. "I did play well.
"I made some putts. I missed the one in the playoff but made a lot of putts on the back nine to keep myself in it. It was a nice little charge I made and nice to catch the leader.
"You know, to play 72 holes, four days of golf and have a putt to win, that's a negative and a positive. It's just one of those things. I just came up short."
Bidding for his first PGA Tour victory since the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational, Els briefly vaulted into a two-shot lead after eagling the par-five seventh to get to 18-under.
"I was trying to get to the leader and making birdies and eagles helps," Els smiled. "But we were trying to get to 20-under at the start of the day. To catch the leader by the seventh hole, you've still got a lot of golf to play."
Els, an 18-times champion on the PGA Tour, had a golden opportunity to seal victory on the first playoff hole, also the 18th, but pushed his putt past the right edge of the cup.
Dufner, moments earlier, had narrowly missed his attempt there from seven feet.
"I didn't hit a great putt," Els reflected. "I tried to jam it in there and kind of pushed it a little bit. It's a disappointment especially when you have a putt to win the tournament.
"I can work on it but at least I'm doing good things."
Els, a former world number one, paid tribute to the laid-back and almost unemotional Dufner who finally won his first PGA Tour title on his 164th start.
"I don't know how long he can keep it up, that wall, but he's doing a good job so far," the South African, nicknamed the 'Big Easy' because of his own relaxed demeanour, grinned.
"Kind of reminds me of myself back in the day. He's got a wonderful golf swing and I think this will help him a lot. I think he'll win quite a few others.
"If he keeps that shield up, that's a pretty good defensive mechanism he's got there."