Els forced to change caddie after freak accident

SAN DIEGO Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:15pm EST

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SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A freak accident during a pro-am prize presentation in his native South Africa scuppered Ernie Els' plans of starting the 2012 PGA Tour season with his long-time caddie Ricci Roberts on his bag.

Roberts, who had competed in a charity tournament to raise funds for the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, broke his ankle after accepting a prize and will be out for at least two months.

"I called Ricci up on stage and he did a little speech but when he walked off he just kind of missed his first step and he went down," Els told Reuters before Thursday's opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines.

"It was so damn dark and this stage was about this high," the South African added, pointing six feet above the air. "The poor guy broke his ankle so he's out for a while.

"So I've got Dan (Quinn) to caddie for me instead but they (Quinn and Roberts) were going to share (the bag) in any case. I think Ricci's going to be back with me probably by the middle of March."

Els, a former world number one who has over 60 tournament victories worldwide, has spent most of his professional career with good friend Roberts on his bag.

In 2010, he employed two caddies with Roberts and former National Hockey League player Quinn splitting the duties. Last year, Els recruited a new caddie in Zimbabwe-born Mike Kerr but, by the end of 2011, he had decided to reunite with Roberts.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in San Diego; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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