By Nick Mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Ernie Els was given the opportunity to make an early departure for the Presidents Cup on Friday when he missed the cut at the Australian Open after finishing seven-over-par for his two rounds.
The South African former world number one will captain the Internationals against Tiger Woods’s United States side in the quadrennial team competition next week.
Unlike his American counterpart, the 50-year-old Els will not be playing at Royal Melbourne and that looked like a wise decision after he backed up an opening round 72 with a six-over 77 on Friday.
“I was kind of hanging in there,” the four-times major winner conceded.
“I just didn’t quite swing enough or good enough and so be it. But it was always going to be tough for me to play well with next week coming up. There’s a lot going on.”
Els said his first go at 18th hole of The Australian Golf Club on Thursday, when he hit a fine drive but ended up with a bogey, had summed up a disappointing two days in Sydney.
“It’s amazing, after all this experience, I couldn’t quite get over that one,” he said.
“I was looking forward to maybe making three or four, and I make six. (Then) dinner wasn’t good and just a lot of bad stuff.”
Six of Els’s International players were warming up for Royal Melbourne at the Australian Open with his compatriot and fellow major winner Louis Oosthuizen and local Marc Leishman looking good among the leading pack at the halfway stage.
Defending champion Abraham Ancer of Mexico hit three birdies on the back nine and an eagle three at the last to force his way into contention on Friday with a 66.
World number 15 Adam Scott, the champion in 2009, rebounded from an opening 75 with a 67 to stand even par for the tournament and could still miss the cut.
Australian Cameron Smith was safe at two-under but Taiwan’s CT Pan will have the weekend off after a second-round 69 left him at one-over.
“I think the guys have really got their minds on next week, the guys I’ve spoken to,” said Els. “It would be great if they catch form and get themselves in the hunt.
“I see Louis is right up there, Scotty I think had a good one today, so most of the guys are playing the weekend, so that’s great.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)