Monday, March 19, 2018

Ernie Els starts Transitions Championship final round well, finishes poorly

PALM HARBOR — Ernie Els did not leave the Transitions Championship in a good mood.

After missing a short birdie putt on the 16th hole Sunday, the Hall of Famer bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18, going from a one-shot lead to falling one shot short of the playoff.

Els, who began the day three off the lead, sent his tee shot on the par-3 17th to the right, landing in a hard-packed area where fans stand. His chip went well past the hole, and he two-putted for bogey.

"There was a bit of a wait, and I lost my rhythm," Els, 42, said.

At the par-4 18th, he missed a 4-footer to drop to 12-under 272. With Robert Garrigus already in at 13 under, Els was out.

"I was just trying to jam it in there, and I pulled it," Els said.

Els is not eligible for the Masters because he is outside of the top 50 in the world rankings (68th). A win would have earned him a spot.

Piercy goes low: Scott Piercy teed off at 10:04 a.m. Sunday, almost four hours before co-leaders Jim Furyk and Retief Goosen. By the time he finished his round, he gave the leaders something to look at.

Piercy shot 9-under 62 and vaulted to 12-under overall. It was the best final round in tournament history and one off the course record set Thursday by Padraig Harrington.

For about 20 minutes, Piercy had the outright lead. And for much of the afternoon, he had the luxury of watching players try to beat his score. When Garrigus finished his round 21/2 hours later, Piercy could go home.

It was a far cry from his third-round 73 that left him nine back.

"I hit it so far in the trees (Saturday)," said Piercy, who now has eight top-10s in 107 starts. "(Sunday), I was hitting from the middle of the fairway and actually putting for birdies instead of pars."

Piercy, whose only win came at the Reno-Tahoe Open in August 2011, had 23 putts over 18 holes. He made six birdies on the front nine and shot 29.

"Toward the middle of the round, it's kind of like a guy who has a no-hitter," playing partner Kris Blanks said. "You don't try to do anything that will disrupt his rhythm."

Ace: Blanks recorded the second hole-in-one of the tournament and first of his career on the par-3, 218-yard 17th with a 4-iron. Stewart Cink aced the par-3, 190-yard eighth on Saturday.

"I knew it was going to be good once it cleared the bunker, but I didn't see it go in," Blanks said. "Then I heard the crowd go wild."

Goosen backs up: Goosen, dealing with a sore back, shot 3-over 75 to tie for 20th: "(Saturday), I hit a lot of bad shots and got away with it. (Sunday), I didn't. I played like a dog."

Chip-ins: Ken Duke, who tied for second, is now 0-for-147 on the tour. … There were 13 players who finished 10 under or better, the most in tournament history.