An aging Ernie Els went to lighter shafts — and now he’s got the 36-hole lead at a PGA Tour Champions major

The inevitability of growing older strikes all of us at some point. Even the Big Easy.

Now at the ripe age of 53, Ernie Els found himself looking for a little help when it came to his shafts, and he admitted after shooting a 66 during the second round of the Regions Tradition at Greystone G&CC in Birmingham, Alabama, on Friday that he recently made a switch.

“I’ve got a kind of a new set in my bag, my clubs have new shafts and I’m getting used to them, but it feels good,” Els said. “I’ve been playing a lot golf lately so I know where my game is. I just want to get out there and do as best as I can, I’m in contention, and that is all you can ask for.”

Els hasn’t needed much of a boost, as he’s posted five top-10 finishes in seven starts on the PGA Tour Champions this year, including a win at the Hoag Classic in March. Sitting at 10 under after two rounds, Els has a one-shot lead over Paul Broadhurst and a two-shot edge over Stephen Ames, Steve Stricker and Tim O’Neal.

But the move to lighter shafts could help him in his quest to win his first major on the PGA Tour Champions. He has three victories on the senior circuit, but has yet to capture a major.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and then two weeks ago I started working on it and getting them into the bag, that’s fully fledged, every club is changed now,” he said. “It’s a little lighter shaft, I’ve been playing 140-range shafts and I went down to a little lighter shaft, I’m getting older.”

Birdie@TheBig_Easy makes up for the bogey on the last with this slick putt @RegionsTrad.

— PGA TOUR Champions (@ChampionsTour) May 12, 2023

As for looking ahead to the final two rounds of play, Els knows there’s plenty of competition to face. Although Els has played well at this event before in two previous starts, he’s seen Stricker run away from the field both times.

This time, Els is determined to keep it simple.

“I just managed myself around the course well. I hit some shorter clubs off the tee to make sure I got it in the fairway, then the greens are putting beautifully and I made some putts, so it was a nice day to stay in it,” he said. “I felt like guys were going to shoot low today because of the rain we had last night so I wanted to get it somewhere in the 60s and that’s what we did.”