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Els will try to be more careful with pastimes

Wednesday, April 05, 2006
By Garry Smits
Morris News Service

A few treks up and down the hills of Augusta National Golf Club last month and a busy week of practice have Ernie Els confident his injured knee is almost completely healed.

Ernie Els, playing in Tuesday's practice round, said his injured knee has held up well at the hilly Augusta National course.

(Michael Holahan/Staff)

"The knee is not too bad ... it's pretty good when it's nice and warm," Els said Tuesday after playing 18 holes. "I was here three weeks ago, played three rounds of golf on those two days, played nine (Monday) and 18 (Tuesday). It's quite a hilly course, and the knee has been very good."

Despite that, Els said he might think twice before taking risks during a season. Els tore ligaments in his left knee in a July accident as he was being towed by a boat while riding on an inner tube in the Mediterranean.

"What happened to me was kind of freakish," he said. "You think about it, after it happened, and you feel like ... you shouldn't have done it. Obviously, I'll think about it more before I do things like that during the golfing season."

While golfers of another generation leaned more toward sedate activities such as fishing, many now are skiing on both snow and water, and they participate in other extreme sports such as snowboarding, mountain biking, scuba diving and spear-fishing. The latter two are Tiger Woods' favorite off-course activities.

"Golf is my job; I love it, but I'm going to live my life," said Chris DiMarco, who injured a rib muscle in a skiing accident in Colorado in March. "I'm going to go out and have fun. (The recent accident) was a very fluky thing, but that happens. I could have walked out of my garage and tripped over my kid's baseball helmet and banged up my knee."

Els said his injury actually gave him a benefit: a chance to rest after a hectic seven months in 2005 when he crisscrossed the globe.

"It gave me a good break," he said.

Els has responded with a solid season entering the Masters. He won the European PGA Tour Dunhill Championship in December and appeared to have the Dubai Desert Classic in the bag in February until Woods caught him in regulation and beat him in sudden death.

Els also finished second by a shot to countryman Retief Goosen in the South African Airways Open and is fourth on the current European Order of Merit.

Els has finished among the top 10 in two of his past three PGA Tour starts, a tie for seventh at the Ford Championship at Doral and a tie for eighth at The Players after drawing within two shots of eventual winner Stephen Ames with five holes to play.

ACCIDENTS HAPPEN

Ernie Els' injury is one of several off-course mishaps suffered by touring professionals in recent years:

- Chris DiMarco, the Masters runner-up last year, missed last month's Players Championship after injuring a rib muscle in a fall while skiing the week before in Colorado.

- 2003 Masters runner-up Len Mattiace injured both knees skiing in December 2003, and has since lost his PGA Tour card.

- Phil Mickelson missed the 1994 Masters after a skiing accident.

- Morris News Service

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