By Mark Lamport-Stokes
KAPALUA, Hawaii (Reuters) - Ernie Els will launch his 2011 season at this week's Tournament of Champions with a new caddie in a bid to spark a fresh approach to his game.
The 41-year-old triple major winner has recruited Zimbabwe-born Mike Kerr, who has previously worked for Spaniard Manuel Angel Jimenez, Briton's Nick Dougherty and, most recently, Trevor Immelman of South Africa.
"We made the decision at the end of last year," South African Els told Reuters after playing nine holes in practice at the Kapalua Resort on Tuesday. "Mike's a nice quiet guy and I like to have a guy like that.
"I just wanted to make a change and have a guy who is a little different from what I have had before. He's a low-key, relaxed kid. And he's a good caddie."
Els, a former world number one who has claimed more than 60 tournament victories worldwide, has spent most of his professional career with good friend Ricci Roberts on his bag.
Last year, he employed two caddies with Roberts and former NHL player Dan Quinn splitting the duties.
"I spoke to Ricci and also with Dan," Els said. "Dan was just a one-year thing and he did a great job for me and we're still friends.
"Me and Ricci, we are like brothers. He's going to get involved with my business a little bit so he's fine."
Kerr, 33, grew up in Durban, South Africa, where he competed at amateur level alongside players such as Tim Clark and Rory Sabattini.
He spent a few seasons caddying on South Africa's Sunshine Tour before moving to the European Tour where he initially worked for New Zealander Stephen Scahill and later Spaniard Carlos Rodiles.
After a productive relationship with Jimenez finally ended, Kerr came close to securing regular duties with South Africans Louis Oosthuizen and 2008 Masters champion Immelman.
"I feel for Mike because he was going to take Louis' bag but then Louis won the (British) Open last year," said Els, who triumphed in the PGA Tour's season-opening event at Kapalua in 2003.
"And then Mike had Trevor's bag and now I am a bad guy there too because I took him away from Trevor," he added with a broad grin.
"Mike caddied for Trevor for four or five events, so I called Trevor about it too. I just felt we can have a good relationship. I've been around this game for 20 years now, I want to get better and I feel Mike's got a lot to offer."
Els is scheduled to tee off in Thursday's opening round at Kapalua at 12:30 local time with Australian Jason Day.
(Editing by John O'Brien)