Ernie Els of South Africa says he is excited to return to Indonesia and play in the star-studded CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters golf tournament next month.
“I was there [in Indonesia] a few years ago,” Els, better known as the Big Easy, said during a live video conference with media and sponsors at the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel on Thursday.
“The weather’s very warm. I stayed there overnight and now I’m excited to get back,” Els said.
Els finished playing in the Chiangmai Golf Classic last week, which saw him falter in the final round along with South Korean Yang Yong-eun, while Australian Scott Hend went on to win.
The Big Easy said that he was currently working on his short game, putting and greens prior to participating in the US Masters next week and the Indonesian Masters.
The Indonesian Masters will be held at the Royale Jakarta Golf Club from May 2 to 5, offering a total of US$750,000 in prize money.
“I’ve been playing on the Asia Tour quite a bit in the last few years. It’s a great place and made many championship winners,” he said.
Els will be competing against some world stars, including Simon Dyson, Darren Clarke, Michael Campbell, John Daly and Bernd Wiesberger.
“The tournament may have star players, so to speak. But there are some Asian players who can play very well. It’s not necessary that the winners will come out of the star player group,” he said.
Amid a proposed ban on the use of the belly putter forwarded by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews golf governing body and the United States Golf Association, Els, who has won 60 professional golf tournaments in various countries, said he would use the belly putter during the Masters.
“I’m practicing with the belly and I played the last game in Thailand with a belly, but I’m a bit disappointed because I missed a few putts. After the Masters I’ll use a short putter,” he said.
“I really enjoy the short putter. It made some really nice putts from 15 to 20 feet, especially in the third hole in Thailand. But for the Masters, I’ll stay with the belly. It will be my last major with the belly.”
Els, who also runs a golf course design company, has taken notice of the development of the golf business in Indonesia, which he said was “promising”.
“Golf is growing so fast in Asia and there are a lot of great markets. Indonesia will be another great market, because I think Indonesia is one of the most popular areas in Asia,” Els said.
However, Els said that he has yet to receive an offer to design a golf course in Indonesia.
“We’re quite busy in Malaysia at the moment creating venues, including one in Langkawi.”
The general manager of the Royale Jakarta Golf Club, Adrian Wahyudi, said he expected that the event could help popularize golf in Indonesia.
Meanwhile, the deputy minister for achievement improvement at the Youth and Sports Ministry, Djoko Pekik Irianto, said the Indonesian Golf Association (PGI) could help familiarize people with golf, which many consider the sole province of the wealthy.
“I hope the PGI can get rid of such an image. It has to be able to familiarize people with golf so that it can be an inclusive sport among the Indonesian people,” he said.