PERTH, Australia -- Ernie Els is off to a breathtaking start
this year, even by his own demanding standards -- four titles in
five tournaments, with a second-place finish in the other.
The South African's latest victory came in a landslide Sunday
when he closed with a 6-under-par 66 to capture the Johnnie Walker
Classic by 10 strokes, setting a PGA European Tour record by
finishing 29 under par.
''The way I'm playing now is some of the best golf I've ever
played,'' said Els, a two-time winner of the U.S. Open. ''The whole
package is pretty good at the moment.''
His four-round total of 259 on the Lake Karrinyup course broke
the tour's 72-hole record for relation to par, surpassing Jerry
Anderson's 27 under in the 1984 European Masters.
Australians Stephen Leaney and Andre Stoltz matched Els' closing
66 to tie for second at 19 under.
Els has made his surging start this season while Tiger Woods was
sidelined following an operation on his left knee.
''It's not me against Tiger and Tiger against me,'' Els said.
''I think it is us on a golf course and us trying to win golf
tournaments. I'm just going to do what I am doing and play better
''I have said it week in and week out: I want to feel
competitive and win tournaments -- so far I have been doing that.''
The Johnnie Walker also was sanctioned by the Australasian and
Asian tours, and Els broke the Asian record of 26-under 262 set by
India's Jeev Milkha Singh at the 1996 Phillip Morris Asian Cup.
Els shot 64-65-64 in the first three rounds to take a
nine-stroke lead at 23 under entering Sunday.
''This week everything went right,'' he said. ''I had a great
time. The greens are soft, the wind stayed away all week and I
could just go out there and attack the golf course.''
Els began the year by shattering the PGA Tour's 72-hole scoring
record with a 31-under total in an eight-stroke victory in the
He completed his Hawaiian sweep with a victory in the Sony Open,
and was second the following week in the Singapore Masters. He then
retained his Heineken Classic title two weeks ago in Melbourne,
Australia, overcoming a 10-stroke deficit over the last two rounds.
He also won the Nedbank Challenge late last year in South
Africa, giving him five victories in his last six events and 10
since teaming with Retief Goosen to win the 2001 World Cup.
Goosen, the 2002 winner, shot a 68 to finish 12 strokes back at
17 under along with England's Justin Rose (65), Australia's Robert
Allenby (66), New Zealand's David Smail (68) and France's
Jean-Francois Remesy (69).