Els says his whole package is 'pretty good'

Updated: February 16, 2003, 3:33 PM ET
Associated Press

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.

Ernie Els
No one was going to catch Ernie Els, who closed with a 66 and won the Johnnie Walker by 10 strokes.

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 golf.

''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 Mercedes Championships.

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).


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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