The only way Ernie Els could make any sense at all of his six-putt quintuple bogey on the first hole of Thursday’s Masters was to call it a bad case of the "heebie-jeebies."
"It’s hard to explain. I can’t explain it," said Els after carding an 8-over 80 in his hellish opening round at Augusta. "It's something that I'm sure up there somewhere [in his head] that you just can't do what you normally do. It's unexplainable.
"A lot of people have stopped playing the game, you know," he added. "It’s unexplainable."
It all started out conventionally enough. His tee shot was fine and he missed the green but he chipped to within three feet. And that’s when the serpents in Els’ brain took over.
"It's hard to putt when you've got snakes in your head," said the four-time major winner from South Africa. "I couldn't get the putter back," he said. "I was standing there, I've got a three-footer, I've made thousands of three-footers, and I just couldn't take it back."
If you have not yet seen how it happened, be advised the following video is not for the faint of heart.
Els has been struggling with the yips for a while, but Thursday’s disaster was on a whole other level for a professional with 19 PGA Tour wins on his resume. His subsequent misses were from three feet, 10 and 11 inches, and two feet, and included a whiffed would-be tap-in.
"I just lost count after, I mean, the whole day was a grind," said Els, who finished with an 8-over 80 and now holds the unfortunate record for highest score on the par-4 first hole in Masters history.
Jason Day, who had a front-row seat to Els’ horror show, was similarly unable to clarify what he witnessed.
"It's the first time ever I've seen anything like that," Day, who started with a 5-under 31 on the front nine but faded on the back, told New Zealand’s stuff.co. "I feel for Ernie. I feel like I'm pretty good mates with him, being on past Presidents Cup teams and I've known him for a long time now.
"I didn't realize he was fighting stuff like that upstairs with the putter," added Day, who limped in at even-par after making a triple-bogey hash of the par-3 16th. "But it's painful for players to go through that … You just don't want to see any player go through something like that, because it can be sometimes career ending for guys like that if they really are fighting it that much."
It was the kind of day that would make anyone want to hang up the spikes, and you have to credit the Big Easy for graciously submitting to interviews afterward.
"I don’t know how I stayed out there," said Els, who added he carried on out of respect for the game and the event.