AUGUSTA, Ga. — On the practice green before his round on Friday at the Masters, Ernie Els made 25 of 28 putts from inside 9 feet. The last one he struck before making his way to the first tee at Augusta National Golf Club was a 2-footer that dropped in the hole.
Several minutes later, Els stood on the first green, over another 2-foot putt. On the same hole in the first round, Els took six putts from 3 feet for an opening nine on his scorecard, sinking his title hopes when his 22nd Masters had barely shoved off the dock.
This putt, his second, was for a bogey. It was a tap-in, but Els was torn between marking the ball and giving himself time to regroup or trying to minimize the pain by acting quickly, as if he were removing a bandage from a wound. Opting for expediency, Els hit the putt. It missed the hole completely. He made the comebacker for a double-bogey six.
On Thursday, Els took 39 putts, 14 more than the…