2005: Els relishes coming to America

Doha, Qatar

Ernie Els has proven it again: No matter what sort of position in which he finds himself, it isn’t easy to beat the Big Easy.

Els shot 73 in the first round of the Qatar Masters March 10, and was in a less-than-customary tie for 81st. But he steadied the ship over the next two days, then answered the bell with a Sunday 65 – the best round of the tournament.

It was enough for a desert double for Els, who won the Dubai Desert Classic the previous week. Els became the first player to win in consecutive weeks on the PGA European Tour since Vijay Singh won the Malaysian Open and Singapore Masters in 2001.

“I suppose I got lucky and got the win but I feel really good,” Els said. “I’m really playing well right now.”

Els, ranked No. 3 in the Official World Golf Ranking, was the highest-ranked player ever to play the Qatar Masters, and he showed the field why he enjoys such a lofty ranking by coming back from a five-shot deficit Sunday – the biggest comeback this season on the European Tour.

Henrik Stenson held the advantage going into the final round, but couldn’t hold off Els, who finished at 12-under 276. Stenson, who shot a final-round 71 at Doha Golf Club, faltered with a double bogey at No. 14 and that opened the door for Els. Stenson fought back mightily with birdies at Nos. 16 and 18, but came up one stroke short. Richard Green of Australia and Pierre Fulke of Sweden tied for third at 9 under.

It was a narrowly missed 25-foot birdie putt at No. 17 that kept Stenson from extra holes.

“One hundredth of an inch at the 17th cost me the chance at a playoff,” he said. “I thought certain that putt had to go in.”

Even though he coveted the victory, Stenson wasn’t surprised Els was on his tail and didn’t sound too disappointed with second place.

“I’m happy with the way I finished,” Stenson said. “I fought well. I have to say it was a fantastic round by Ernie. I knew he would be chasing.”

Els will play Bay Hill this week, followed by The Players Championship, then will take a week off before the Masters.

“Last week was a great win, and this is great too,” Els said. “The way the game is going, I’m looking forward to playing golf.

“I feel like my game is right there, and I can’t wait to get to America.”

– Staff and wire reports

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