Golf: Els looking `unbeatable'

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THE HONEYMOON is likely to continue for newly-married Ernie Els as he seeks to become the first player in more than 20 years to defend his South African Open title when the tournament begins today in Stellenbosch.

Still flushed from clinching his third Alfred Dunhill PGA title by a comfortable four shots last week, the "Big Easy", as Els is known for his easy-going nature, is the overwhelming favourite to make it two in a row this weekend.

While rivals sweated their way round the par-71 course yesterday, Els opted for a day on the beach. He is relaxed and confident, said his coach, Robert Baker, who reckons that on his current form the world No 5 looks unbeatable.Among the leading players attempting to bring Els' run of form to an end are Germany's Bernhard Langer, Ian Woosnam and Nick Faldo, who missed the cut at Houghton last week and is keen to start collecting Ryder Cup points.

Laura Davies had a roller-coaster start to the season last week but is full of confidence ahead of today's Naples LPGA Memorial in Florida. The former world No 1 bounced back from an opening 79 to shoot a course record 65 and finish inside the top 30 in the Healthsouth Inaugural in Orlando.

Among the full-strength field will be world No 1 Annika Sorenstam, making her final appearance before a six-week break.