Els set for special Players tee-off as Hall of Famer

Wednesday, 11 May 2011 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

(Reuters) - Three-times major winner Ernie Els said on Monday that he felt a mixture of pride and humility about joining an elite group at this week’s Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

When South African Els sets off in Thursday’s opening round at the TPC Sawgrass, he will become the 16th World Golf Hall of Famer to compete in the event unofficially regarded as the sport’s fifth major.

“It’ll be a very special feeling to step on the first tee knowing I’ve made the Hall of Fame,” Els, 41, said during his World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony in St Augustine, Florida.

“I’m still trying to win golf tournaments, still trying to win major championships, so it’s a huge bonus for anybody’s career.

“It’s kind of a funny situation where you get into something like this while still very active as a player, so we’ll see how we juggle it. But it shouldn’t change me at all.”

Els, a former world number one, said he was still eager to add further gloss to a glittering professional career that has yielded 62 tournament victories worldwide.

“My form has been diabolical so far this year so I’d like to get that right as soon as possible, hopefully this week,” he added.

“But I feel so much drive in me, so much that I’d like to still accomplish in the game. I know time is running out but many players in history have won quite a few majors in their 40s. I’d like to do that.”

Popularly known as the ‘Big Easy’ because of his imposing physique, smooth swing and laid-back demeanour, Els has struggled with his putting this season and has not recorded a single top-10 finish in nine starts on the U.S. PGA Tour.

“I need a kick-start. I need to get going,” said the South African, who briefly switched to a belly putter in a bid to improve his form on the greens.

“I’ve always been a good putter, and for some reason there have been so many gremlins in my head this year with putting. I went back to the drawing board ... back into what I know.

“I feel very natural again. I’ve gone back to a short putter. I’ve just got to see it, try and keep it simple.”

Els, who won the U.S. Open in 1994 and 1997 and the 2002 British Open at Muirfield, earned Hall of Fame selection in the first year he was on the PGA Tour ballot.