April 15, 2006

Els charges into contention with 65 at Harbor Town

MIAMI (Reuters) - Ernie Els put his disappointing finish at
last week's U.S. Masters behind him by charging into contention
for the Heritage Classic at Hilton Head, South Carolina on

With his putter back on song, the world number five
gathered nine birdies on the way to a six-under-par 65 in the
third round.

That left him tied for fourth at 10-under 203, four strokes
behind joint leaders Aaron Baddeley of Australia and American
Jim Furyk.

"That's been my game plan ever since yesterday evening,"
Els, 36, told reporters after taking only 25 putts on a sunny
but breezy day at the Harbor Town Golf Links.

"I said to (caddie) Ricci (Roberts): 'We have to get low
into the 60s.'

"When you get it going on a roll like this, I want to keep
it going. I feel like I'm playing well, and I might as well try
to do the same tomorrow."

Els, who dropped back into a tie for 27th at the Masters
with a closing 76 after being in position to contend, was
delighted to find form with his putter.

"The last few weeks, I haven't made my share of putts
although I've been hitting the ball quite well," he said.

"Today I made nine birdies, and you've got to make some
putts to do that. It feels like I don't have too many
weaknesses in my game at the moment.


"I played a nice back nine yesterday and I kind of followed
that through with a nice round today. I've been a little more
patient so far this week."

Els was happy with how he quickly he recovered from a
double-bogey six at the eighth, where his first attempt to
escape from a bad lie in a greenside bunker met with fresh air.

"I tried to get my club under the ball, but I hit the wood
(a wooden sleeper on the left side of the bunker) and it
bounced over the wall," he said.

"That took me way out of the picture again but I felt I was
hitting the ball okay. I just needed to get back on track. And
I did that and played a very solid back nine."

Still hunting his first victory of the year, Els is playing
his final tournament until he returns to action in the May
25-28 BMW Championship at Wentworth, where he has his England

He would dearly love to visit the winner's circle at Harbor
Town, where he has five top-10s in just seven starts.

"I've played well here and I'd like to win this one this
week," said the three-times major champion, whose 65 on
Saturday was his second best score at the Heritage. In 1995, he
fired a 64 in the third round.

"I'd love to get one of those tacky jackets," Els added,
referring to the tartan jacket that is presented to the winner.
"It's a wonderful place here.

"I feel I'm not in a bad position by the end of today. I
just need to try to play aggressively and play tidy, aggressive

(Writing in Los Angeles by Mark Lamport-Stokes)