At Doral in the limited field, Els shot 18 under and won by four strokes with rounds of 25, 27, 26 and 26 putts for a total of 107 (T5th in the field) and with 1.640 putts per GIR (6th in the field). He was T2 in GIRs at 69.4%, so again the player who finishes top-10 (or in this case top-5) in BOTH GIRs and in putting is sure to win. At -14 under, Charl Schwartzel was T9th in putts and T11th in GIR. Other contenders seven shots out were Matt Kuchar (5th in putts, T31st in GIRs), Martin Kaymer (T9th in putts, T17th in GIRs), and Padraig Harrington (8th in putts and T22nd in GIRs).
Robert Allenby finished 9 shots back despite T9th putts, 1st in putts per GIR, and T7th in GIRs, so that's a bit of a mystery. No other top-20 finishers had top-10 in both putting and GIRs, including Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Camilo Villegas.
So, how does Els' putting actually look under close examination and in context of his career?
A total of 107 putts is towards the low end for winners, with Tiger routinely winning with 7-10 more putts than this. Els reached 50 greens in regulation and missed 22, on a course with 4 par-5s and some wind. With one green a chip-in birdie, Els used the flatstick with 1-putts on 35 greens -- 18 birdies, 16 pars, and 1 failed up-and-down for bogey. On the remaining 36 greens, Els 2-putted 4 times for birdies on par-5s, 28 times for routine pars, and 4 times he failed to get up and down and made bogeys. He had no eagles or 3-putts, totaling 23 birdies against 5 bogeys.
Only 6 of the 35 1-putts came from outside 10': 13'11", 12'5", 19'0", 17'4", 10'4", and 24'1". Only 4 of the first of the 36 2-putts Els missed were inside 10'. Outside 10' he therefore sank 6 of 67 attempts (9% or 1 out of 11).
In the critical range of 5-15', Els went 18 for 29 -- a very very strong 62% against a field-best average for 2009 of 54% and the category leader so far in 2010 at 61%.
In other key ranges, Els was:
0-3': 39 for 39
3-5': 13 for 15
5-10': 13 for 17
10-15': 3 for 9
Inside 10' Els was 65 for 71 -- a remarkable 92%.
For the four rounds, Els had GIRs, total putts and putts per GIR as follows:
Round 1: 11 GIRs (61%) and 25 total putts and 1.636 putts per GIR for -4 68;
Round 2: 14 GIRs (78%) and 27 total putts and 1.643 putts per GIR for -6 66;
Round 3: 12 GIRs (67%) and 29 total putts and 1.667 putts per GIR for -2 70;
Round 4: 13 GIRs (72%) and 26 total putts and 1.615 putts per GIR for -6 66.
For the event, Els had 26.75 putts per round and 1.640 putts per GIR.
For 2010, this is the same level of putting Geoff Ogilvy displayed in winning the SBS Championship at -22 (1.639), a bit better than Ryan Palmer's -15 at the Sony (1.691); not as strong as Bill Haas' -30 over 5 rounds at the Hope (1.627); better than Ben Crane's -13 at Torrey Pines (1.794); not as hot as Stricker's -16 at Riviera (1.625); about the same as Dustin Johnson's -16 at Pebble Beach (1.655); the same as Cameron Beckman's -15 at the Mayakoba Classic Cancun (1.646); better than Hunter Mahan's -16 at Phoenix (1.767); a bit better than Camilo Villegas' -13 at the Honda (1.660); and not as sharp as Derek Lamely's -19 in Puerto Rico (1.615).
Of the winners in 10 prior events, 4 putted better and 6 putter not as good as Els.
For Els in 2010,
Sony Open -8 T12 finish 1.846 putts/GIR
Farmers Ins. -11 T5 finish 1.789 putts/GIR
Northern Trust -8 T10 finish 1.705 putts/GIR
Honda Classic +8 T67 finish 1.900 putts/GIR
WGC Doral -18 1 Finish 1.640 putts/GIR
2010 average 1.774 putts/GIR 89th
In his career 1994-2009, excluding the first three years before he played at least 10 events, Els has played 239 events with putting stats and of these, he has averaged under 1.700 for the event 41 times (17.2% or about 1 in 6). In every year, he has notched at least 1 and as many as 5 events under 1.700. His best putting year was 2004 with 1.740 (9th) for the year, including 4 events under 1.700.
What does this mean to golf fans: Els putted as well as winners usually do, and this comes along only about 2-4 times a year. Els so far this year looks on track for his career "usual", so if he plays 16 events, one can expect this level of putting to show up perhaps twice more this year.
In terms of technique, Els listened to Scotty Cameron in May 2006 and stood taller, switched to a heavier 36-inch putter, and started working on "releasing" the putter. He stayed slightly off his 2004 peak season for a couple of years and then nose dived in the rankings with putting to 127th in 2008 and 138th in 2009. This year he has gone back to a shorter putter and more bend in his stance. But he is also ranked only 89th in putting on Tour so far in 5 events.
Ernie Els putted pretty dang well at Doral -- especially inside 15' -- but in general he's been searching of late and doesn't appear to have found exactly what he needs to return to 2004 form.
Geoff MangumPutting Coach and Theorist
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