Unfortunately, that headline is not an exaggeration. Ernie Els lived a real-life nightmare on the first hole to kick off his 2016 Masters campaign, making a
sextuple-bogey 10 quintuple-bogey 9* on the par 4 to post the highest number there in the history of the tournament by two one shot. Worst of all, he needed seven six putts from short range.
Watch at your own risk of catching the yips:
— FOX Sports Asia (@FOXSportsAsia) April 7, 2016
How many times did you cringe? Hey, don’t say I didn’t warn you! It’s brutal to watch. Golf can be a mean, mean game.
The distance of his missed putts were as follows, per GolfChannel.com: 2 feet, 3 feet, 3 feet, 10 inches, 4 feet, and 11 inches.
Els, who won the Open Championship in 2012 with a belly putter, has struggled with his short-range putting in recent years. At the Dunhill Links Championship last October and at the South African Open earlier this year, he missed short-range putts that shocked the interwebs.
As mentioned earlier, Els’ 9 on no. 1 is the highest score on that hole in Masters history. Four players had previously made an 8 on the opening hole — Olin Browne and Scott Simpson in 1998, Billy Casper in 2001 and Jeev Milkha Singh in 2007.
*After Ernie finished the round and went into scoring, it was discovered that he actually only took 9 shots, not 10, and needed 6 putts, not 7. Though he missed a couple more short ones coming in, Els managed NOT to finish DFL, which is pretty impressive when you’re five-over after 1. Ernie shot an eight-over 80, so it wasn’t so bad other than the opening hole.
Afterward, he seemed baffled by his putting woes and couldn’t really find the words to explain them. I mean, how do you describe having this insane mental blockage that creates the yips?
“It’s hard to explain,” said Els. “I can’t explain it. It’s something that I’m sure up there somewhere that you just can’t do what you normally do. It’s unexplainable. A lot of people have stopped playing the game (because of the yips).
“I couldn’t get the putter back. I was standing there, I’ve got a 3‑footer, I’ve made thousands of 3‑footers and I just couldn’t take it back. And then I just kind of lost count after ‑‑ I mean, the whole day was a grind. I tried to fight. I’m hitting the ball half decent and I can’t make it from two feet.
“I missed from two feet on 18 and a 4‑footer on 17. 6‑footer ‑‑ when you count them up, it’s too many shots just out there, just on the green. So it’s very difficult. I’m not sure where I’m going from here. So, I don’t know. We’ll see.”
At least Ernie doesn’t have such a huge ego that he can’t admit to the yips, which is more to say than most.
“Well, I couldn’t putt with a stick,” he said. “You make some stuff up in your brain, you know, it’s difficult. It’s something that, what holds you back from doing your normal thing? I don’t know what it is. I can go to that putting green now and make 20 straight 3‑footers. And then you get on the course and you feel a little different and you can’t do what you normally do. So it’s pretty difficult.”
Oh, the agony!