Els holds nerve for second win in a row
South African scrambles for par on final two holes to prevail in storm-hit event
Ernie Els completed a second successive victory last night and is the hottest player in golf with the Masters now only nine days away. The 40-year-old South African survived a tense finish to beat Italian Edoardo Molinari and American Kevin Na by two shots after the storm-hit Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill spilled into a fifth day.
Els, among 21 players unable to complete his final round on Sunday, resumed two ahead with four to play, but that became one when Na birdied the long 16th. In the trees off the tee at the same hole, Els had to settle for par there, but as he saved par from a greenside bunker on the short 17th, Na found trouble down the last.
Driving into the right-hand rough led to a bogey five, dropping the Korean-born player alongside former US Amateur champion Molinari on nine under par. Both closed with three under 69s. Els, who sank testing six-footers at the 15th and 17th, knew a bogey would be good enough at the final hole, but parred it for a 71, an 11-under aggregate and his 64th professional victory. He lifted the WGC-CA Championship in Miami by a much more comfortable four-shot margin two weeks ago and this was a far nervier affair.
Play was suspended yesterday with Els having just allowed his five-stroke lead to dwindle by double-bogeying the 13th – he found the water there – and bogeying the 14th.
"Obviously I'm not totally at ease with myself right now," said the former Open and US Open champion on Sunday night of his situation. "I'll be thinking about it all night. It won't be a very peaceful night. I'm a little angry or disappointed or whatever you want to call it. There's still work out there to be done and I've got to get it done. I've got to go out there and play four holes as good as I can."
Na, with the added pressure of needing a top two finish to climb into the world's top 50 and gain a spot in the Masters, was his closest overnight challenger, but was facing an 80-foot birdie putt on the 15th.
"I was playing well and Ernie looked like he was struggling," he said. "Probably good for Ernie that they called it so he can clear his head a little bit.
"For me, I need to make birdies to catch Ernie." He managed one, but the closing bogey ended his hopes of a first US Tour victory and left him with a third runners-up finish on the circuit.
Molinari, meanwhile, once more overtakes his brother Francesco in the world rankings and has given his Ryder Cup chances another big boost. The two World Cup winners will link up at Augusta next week for the opening major of the year.
Latest in Sport
Paul Scholes: Manchester United vs Liverpool - I don't understand why Brendan Rodgers was not more attacking against Basel
Jesus Christ plays for Chelsea - that's what one in five children thinks
Transfer Talk: Nemanja Vidic to return to Manchester United; Hazard to leave Chelsea; Sunderland want Radamel Falcao
Frank Warren column: Don't bet on Amir Khan landing pay day against Floyd Mayweather
Manchester United transfer news: Kevin Strootman move edges closer
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food