Golf: Ernie Els seven-putts opening green in nightmare Masters start

Ernie Els reacts after putting for bogie on the second green during the first round.
Ernie Els reacts after putting for bogie on the second green during the first round.PHOTO: AFP

AUGUSTA, Georgia (REUTERS) - Ernie Els suffered an embarrassing start to his 22nd Masters when he required seven putts from a short distance on the first green to post a record-high 10 on the par-four hole in Thursday's opening round.

The four-times major champion and former world number one has struggled with short putts for more than a year, but he felt earlier this season that he had overcome what golfers refer to as the yips.

But his short-putt troubles returned in nightmarish fashion after Els' third shot, a chip, came to rest just shy of three feet from the cup at the opening hole.

The 46-year-old South African went back and forth missing putts of similar distances. When his effort for triple bogey missed left, his playing competitor, world number one Jason Day, turned away.

Els tried to gather himself before his putt for quadruple bogey. He grinned as he stood behind his ball, stepped up and missed again. He one-handed and missed his sixth attempt before tapping in for a 10.

The previous Masters high score on Augusta National's opening hole was eight, recorded by Olin Browne and Scott Simpson in 1998 and matched in 2001 by the late Billy Casper, who was 69 at the time, and India's Milkha Singh in 2007.

In January, Els duffed an 18-inch putt at the South African Open. This led his father Neels and fellow South African golfer Nico van Rensburg to urge Els to switch an unconventional putting grip where his left hand is placed below the right.

"I went through a very tough spell there, especially last year and beginning of this year," Els told Reuters at Riviera Country Club in February.

"Everybody saw that. I was really nowhere and now I feel like I've got some game."