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Original Issue

Big Play Ernie Els stuck to his game plan of using a trusty Texas wedge and was rewarded when he holed a 43-footer to win the Sony Open

On Sunday, Ernie Els showed again why patience and smart play are
the traits of a champion. Els had a frustrating back nine,
leaving six birdie putts dead on line but less than six inches
short of the hole. However, he remained composed heading into the
playoff with Aaron Baddeley.

On the first hole of sudden death, the par5 18th, Els used his
putter from the front fringe when he was 60 feet from the flag.
He knew the Texas wedge was the smart play. You won't sink as
many shots from the fringe with a putter as you will with an
iron, but your misses will be better. Els cozied his ball to four
feet and matched Baddeley's birdie. On the next hole, the
353-yard 10th, Els pulled his drive way left of the green and
flew the ensuing 40-yard pitch over the putting surface and onto
the fringe. He then faced a twisty 43-foot shot that looked as if
it had to be drained if he was to stay alive, because Baddeley
had a 20-foot uphill putt for 3. But Els stuck to his game plan
and again drew the putter. This time his ball rolled straight in,
and when Baddeley missed, Els was the winner for the second week
in a row. He later admitted that he was fortunate, saying, "I
could putt 100 balls [from there] and wouldn't make one again."


COLOR PHOTO: CHUCK SOLOMON (3) John Elliott Jr., 56, is an instructor at Cog Hill Golf Club in Lemont, Ill., and one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers.




YOU HAVE two choices when playing from the fringe: Keep the ball
on the ground, or put it in the air. My advice is to always roll
it using a putter, a shot called the Texas wedge.

THIS PLAY takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation. You don't
have to puzzle over how far to fly the ball or worry about how it
will react when it lands on the green. Also, the putting stroke
has the fewest moving parts of any swing, so unlike with a wedge,
you probably won't skull, shank or chili-dip the shot.

TO EXECUTE the Texas wedge, take your standard putting setup
(left). Then lean a little forward [toward the target] without
moving your feet or altering the ball position (right). The
closer the ball is to where the fringe meets the rough, the more
you lean forward. This will naturally help produce a more
up-and-down stroke, which keeps the putter from getting caught in
the thicker grass of the fringe and makes it more likely that
you'll make solid contact.


"The biggest change Ernie Els has made in 2003 isn't in his
equipment. He told SI it's a dramatic grip change, which has him
using a weaker left hand."

"The Sony Open was exciting, but the only colorful thing
about ESPN's telecast was the patterns on the announcers' shirts.
Fred Couples is too nice a guy to say anything interesting or

"Are Aaron Baddeley's slacks a thing of the past or the
future? I wore purple-checked pants just like his when I was 21,
but that was 35 years ago, when I had a wooden driver and much
longer hair."

"An LPGA player told me that a number of her peers are
already jealous of Suzy Whaley, who will make more money in
endorsements for the one week she plays in the PGA Tour's Greater
Hartford Open than most LPGA players earn in a year."