Golf

Ernie Els continued to struggle on the greens at Augusta National.

Off-colour Els runs into more Masters misery

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Ernie Els suffered more misery on the opening hole at Augusta National as the second round of the Masters got under way on Friday.

Els started his first round by six-putting the par-four first to run up a quintuple-bogey nine as his battle with the dreaded 'yips' resurfaced in heartbreaking fashion.

And there looked to be no end in sight to the four-time major winner's problems as he missed from two feet to three-putt the same hole and begin his second round with a double-bogey.

Els had pulled his approach into the crowd on the 445-yard par four, hitting, but thankfully not seriously injuring, a male spectator. The 46-year-old then hit a poor pitch and left his par attempt two feet right of the hole.

After checking he would not be standing on the line of playing partner Matt Kuchar, Els then missed the bogey attempt to audible gaps of dismay from the crowd.

Els was at least not alone in struggling on the greens, New Zealand's Danny Lee moving to within a shot of leader Jordan Spieth with a birdie on the second, only to then four-putt the third for a double bogey.

That dropped Lee back to three under par, with England's Ian Poulter falling back to two under due to a bogey on the par-five second caused by pulling his drive into the trees.

Spieth, who led from start to finish last year, had carded a flawless opening 66 to become the first player in tournament history to hold the outright lead in five consecutive rounds.

But, despite dropping two shots in his last three holes to card an opening 70, Rory McIlroy was optimistic about his chances of claiming a first green jacket to complete the career grand slam.

" He's very, very comfortable here," McIlroy said. "You look at the way he played in 2014 and 2015 and look at what he's done this year; it's a golf course he's comfortable on and he's going to be tough to beat this week.

"I feel I'm going to have to play good golf, but I feel there's enough good golf in me so that I can reel him in over the next 54 holes."

McIlroy was due to begin his second round shortly after 11am local time, with Spieth out almost two hours later.

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