Els seeks spark in 'Big Easy' PGA event
Ernie Els of South Africa plays a shot on the fifth hole during the second round of the 78th Masters Golf Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 11, 2014 - by Timothy A. Clary
The 44-year-old South African, twice a winner of the US and British Opens, missed the cut at the Masters and struggled last week at the Heritage.
But the player nicknamed "Big Easy" has found his form in the past when playing in a city that bears the same nickname.
"In the recent past, that has been something of a good omen for me," Els said. "I've been 19-under in 2012 when I lost in a playoff to Jason Dufner and 12-under in 2013. That's a tidy scoring average of around 68, which reflects my fondness for this golf course.
"Also, the vibe here in New Orleans is good and the galleries are fantastic. Although this is my fifth straight week on the road, I just want to channel all my energies into this and see if I can kick-start my season and get something going here."
Els will play alongside reigning US Open champion Justin Rose of England and American David Toms, a past PGA Championship winner and Louisiana native, in the first two rounds.
Defending champion Billy Horschel seeks his first top-10 showing in a full-field event since last year's US Open. The American will play the first two days alongside compatriots Patrick Reed and Rickie Fowler.
"I've had a couple good finishes here," Fowler said. "I like where my game is at. I need to be patient. I feel like I can go around this course and make some birdies.
"It's nice to be back near the top and not off on the weekends. I definitely expect myself to be in contention."
This week's winner and next week's champion in Charlotte will qualify for next month's Players Championship.
Among those trying to fight their way in by virtue of their performance this season with a strong showing this week are Scotsman Russell Knox and American Will MacKenzie.