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Els has work cut out against Donald

Ernie Els has gone out in the second round of the WGC-Accenture Match Play each of the last two years.

The only reason Ernie Els, ranked 65th in the world a week ago, is in the field for this week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship is because Phil Mickelson, 11th, isn’t playing. With Mickelson spending the week on a family vacation, that meant Els nabbed the final spot.

“I’ve got some good red wines I can give him,” Els joked Monday. “And I definitely will buy him a dinner whenever he wants it.”

How long Els lasts in the field, is another story. Each of the last two years, he’s gone out in the second round. Three of the four years prior to that, he was eliminated in the first round.

This year, Els is playing defending champion and top-ranked Luke Donald in Wednesday’s opening round.

That said, Els has won a half-dozen match play events elsewhere in the world, which begs the question why does he for the most part seem to struggle in this tournament.

“The format is different,” Els said. “Over an 18-hole match, it feels quite fast. I’m kind of sometimes a slow starter and getting into the match.

“I felt on a 36-hole match like we had at Wentworth, I could feel I could get wired in. I felt my game could stand up for a long period of time, and maybe grind the guy down a little bit. I think that’s why I had such a good record there.”

As for trying to beat Donald, Els knows he has a tall order in front of him.

”Obviously he’s in great form,” Els said. “He had an unbelievable year last year and becoming world No. 1. He’s got a lot going for him.

“It’s not like I’m the worst match player in the world. I think I know what I need to do. You’ve got to keep the ball in play. You’ve got to keep it in play on every single hole, because he’s going to be in every hole.”

Photo by Miralle, Getty Images

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR

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