Masters. Ernie Els' wins at Doral and Bay Hill this past week have put him on the front burner for a green jacket. What better time to get your prodigious, but often hidden, game in order for the season's first major? Ernie's been saying of late that "he's in a good place". Now he has the scorecards to back it up. The revelation that he has an autistic son and lingering knee surgery recovery have shadowed the Big Easy's career for the past few years. Now at 40, his clock is ticking. Ticking to win majors I would suspect. After two US Open victories relatively early in his career, much was expected. Ernie need not look past Vijay Singh to realize all isn't lost.
I've written before that Ernie has appeared to lack that certian "fire in the belly" needed to close out golf tournaments. Evidently he's made an adjustment. After being pulled off the course at Bay Hill on Sunday, due to weather, Ernie had collapsed a 5 stroke advantage by playing his last two holes in 3 over. With a night to think about choking, he came back on Monday by one-putting three of the last four holes to secure a 2 shot win. Sounds like good Augusta practice to me.
The bookies have laid the early Augusta line. Venerable Ladbrokes has Tiger Woods as a 4-1 favorite with Phil Mickelson at 8-1, followed by Els at 10-1. That's more an indication of the players' favor with the betting populace than their chances of winning. I'm certain the bookmaker's are wary of too much Woods money upsetting the balance and setting the scene for a potential payout bloodbath.
The Shell Houston Open this week is the final Masters tune up. Hard not to root for Fred Couples, isn't it?