Ernie Els takes a nine at first hole of the Masters 2016

Venue: Augusta National Dates: 7 April to 10 April
Coverage: Live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs and online from Saturday. Listen live on Radio 5 live or 5 live sports extra and follow live text on the BBC Sport website from Thursday. Full details

Former world number one Ernie Els carded the worst first hole in Masters history, but it was not as bad as first thought.

Scoreboards showed the South African took a sextuple-bogey 10 shots at the par four, including seven putts.

But TV footage only showed six putts, with 46-year-old Els later signing for a nine in his eight-over-par 80.

"I don't know how I stayed out there," he said. "The last thing you want is to be out on the golf course."

He added: "I'm not sure where I'm going from here. If you have snakes in your brain, it's difficult. Maybe I need a brain transplant."

Els, who had problems with his putting since the end of last season, needed six putts from a distance of three feet.

But at least he avoided becoming the 10th player to record a double-figure score at Augusta.

"I can't explain it," he said. "I couldn't take the putter back. I had three goes and then it went all over the place.

"Something withholds you from doing your normal thing. I could go on the practice putting green and make 20 straight three-footers."

How did it happen?

The four-time major winner, playing with world number one Jason Day and Matt Kuchar, missed the green with his approach to the first but recovered to leave himself a three-footer for par. It was then that the problems started.

  • Fourth shot (first putt) - Past the hole on the left, the same distance back for bogey
  • Fifth shot (second putt) - Another miss to the left, back to an almost identical position from where the first was missed. Els shows his first sign of frustration
  • Sixth shot (third putt) - Yet another miss left, Els now looks to his caddie
  • Seventh shot (fourth putt) - Longer taken over this one, a walk away to line it up, then a miss right
  • Eighth shot (fifth putt) - Tries to tap in with one hand only for the ball to lip out
  • Ninth shot (sixth putt) - Another one-hander, the ball finally drops and Els' record-breaking nightmare is over

Els used a belly putter when he won the last of his major titles at the 2012 Open, but has had to revert to a short-handled club since anchored strokes were banned on 1 January.

He had putting problems at the end of last season and missed an 18-incher on the way to missing the cut at the SA Open in January.

He has since switched to a cross-handed method and finished 18th at the Dubai Desert Classic in February.


"You just don't want to see any player go through something like that, because it can be sometimes career-ending if they really are fighting it that much," said playing partner Jason Day.

"I feel bad for Ernie,'' said defending champion Jordan Spieth. "It's obviously in your head.

"I've certainly had my moments, everybody has, from short range, where they just are not confident in where they are starting it."

Two-time champion Tom Watson said the putts were harder than they might have looked, especially on a blustery day.

"It's right at the top of the hill,'' Watson said. "It can really blow up there. It's probably the windiest green on the golf course."

"I have never seen anything like that on the opening hole of a major," BBC Sport commentator Ken Brown said.

"I'm not sure there is any way of explaining what happened. It can happen in any sport. It did to Eric Bristow in darts, for example."

Former PGA tour professional Jay Townsend told BBC Radio 5 live: "It ruins your week. There is no way back, even if you play well.

"Els has had this problem for a while. He's been yippy. Right now, I am sure his head must be spinning."

Other Augusta failures

Three-time major winner Billy Casper, who won the Masters in 1970, took a 14 at the 16th in 2005 but did not submit his card and was disqualified.

That left the 13s taken by Tsuneyuki Nakajima at the par-five 13th in 1978 and Tom Weiskopf at the par-three 12th in 1980 as the worst one-hole scores in Masters history.

The most recent double-figure score was recorded by American David Duval with his 10 at the par-five second in 2006.

The previous worst score on the first hole was eight strokes, recorded by four players.

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