Commentary

Interruption well-timed for Els

Originally Published: March 28, 2010
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Ultimately, he might get the prize he seeks, leave Florida with the confidence he craves and be one of the biggest topics -- outside of Tiger Woods, of course -- heading into the Masters.

But for now, Ernie Els has several fretful hours ahead of him, with four more frightful holes to play at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge on Monday morning -- weather permitting -- before he can lay claim to his second victory in as many tournaments on the PGA Tour.

Els was seemingly cruising along Sunday afternoon in the final round of the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Then the skies darkened, and Els' game inexplicably failed him as the weather turned ominous.

[+] EnlargeBay Hill
AP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackAfter a delay of roughly three hours, PGA Tour officials halted play for the day at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The final round will resume at 10 a.m. ET on Monday.

He made a double-bogey after hitting into the water at the par-4 13th hole, then followed with a bogey after finding a bunker with his approach at the 14th.

His lead had dwindled to 2 strokes over Kevin Na and 3 over Retief Goosen, Ben Curtis and Chris Couch as he stepped to the 15th tee.

Then threatening weather forced players off the course, followed by steady rain for more than three hours that ultimately caused the suspension of play until Monday morning at 10 ET.

And Els was left to mutter under an awning as rain continued to fall late Sunday afternoon.

"It's never a good way to go into a break," Els said. "Actually, I'll be thinking about it all night tonight. It won't be a very peaceful night I don't think, but going to come out tomorrow and, you know, get it done somehow."

Els, 40, is seeking to become the first player since Woods in 2001 to win twice during the Florida Swing preceding the Masters. That year, Woods won at Bay Hill and the Players Championship, then went on to win the Masters -- his fourth consecutive major title.

The Big Easy is uneasy because he only recently found reason to feel good about his game.

After a poor tournament at the Honda Classic, where he finished T-67, Els discovered something. He moved the ball back in his stance and went on to win the WGC-CA Championship at Doral, his first victory in two years and just his second since 2004.

He put himself in position for another victory here, taking a 1-stroke lead into the final round over Curtis, an advantage he had built to 5 strokes when he birdied the 12th hole.

Then came the poor approaches at the 13th and 14th holes.

"There's no excuse for those," Els said. "Just came at the wrong time and now I'm in with a big battle [Monday] morning depending on conditions. ... I want to get it done. ... Not going to be an easy night."

If it is any consolation to Els, Na has never won on the PGA Tour and he has an 80-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole. Goosen has only one hole left.

But Els appeared more bothered by the negatives.

"I'll keep thinking about the shots, especially the shot on 13," he said. "That's not going to go away. I know myself. We are sportsmen, and [when] we mess up like that, we think about. Got to get myself ready somehow. There's nothing I can do about it now."

There's only about an hour of golf left at Bay Hill, but for Els, it figures to be 60 very important minutes.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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