Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
Having suffered from some pain and spasms in my right hip during the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral, it was a case of just taking it easy last week and getting some treatment to try to get this sorted. The good news is it feels a bit better and that means I can tee it up this week at Bay Hill.
It’s always great to play in Arnold’s tournament and to win it is obviously very special. The guy is such a legend and has done so much for the game of golf. He really helped me a bit at the start of my career as well, inviting me here for the first time way back in 1993, when I actually played with him the first couple of rounds. Arnold made the cut that year and I didn’t! Anyway, I’ve won here since then – in 1998 and 2010 – so there are enough good vibes in the memory bank that I always come in to this tournament with a lot of optimism.
This is a tough golf course, though. It’s a long track, so you’re often hitting a lot of club into very firm greens and with plenty of water about. Every year you see that scoring is tough, even from the guys at the top of the leaderboard, and small mistakes can cost you shots. I’m looking forward to it, though, especially after last year when it was all a bit strange with me trying to secure a last-minute place in the Masters. None of that stuff to worry about this year, I’m relieved to say.
Okay, so before we sign off I just want to briefly look back again to Doral week when, as many of you will recall, we held a joint press conference with Mr. Donald Trump to make some announcements about Els for Autism. Forgive me but we want to leave this information up on the website for another week, just to make sure the message reaches as many people as possible.
To start things off we launched this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge. There is plenty of information on our homepage right now, so we don’t need to go into detail here, but suffice to say we owe considerable thanks to Mr. Trump for his support. Six of our 22 regional qualifiers are being hosted at Trump courses, which is a huge boost to our fundraising campaign. They are fine golf courses and Mr. Trump is generously giving us a break on the rent, which saves us a lot of money in fees that we would otherwise have had to pay to other golf clubs. We’d spoken in the past about this and Mr. Trump always said he would help us. He’s truly a man of his word.
Of course, that means more cash goes directly towards funding the proposed Els for Autism Center of Excellence, which is moving ever closer to becoming a reality. We’ve raised a lot of money already and with the help of Mr. Trump and our sponsors and all the people who take part in these events, we’re going to get this thing done. It is going to be an amazing 30,000-square foot facility, which will be the first of its kind in the world. These are special kids and they need some really special help, and that’s what this Center is all about.
For the past few years we started the ball rolling on our fundraising campaign with the now traditional Els for Autism Pro-Am held at PGA National, which took place last Monday and as always was organized by a good friend of mine Marvin Shanken, the publisher of Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado.
This was our fifth pro-am and the day was a huge success thanks to the support of sponsors, amateurs, celebrities and some of my fellow TOUR pros including Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley, Raymond Floyd, Bo Van Pelt and many more. Together we raised almost $900,000. That’s incredible. Seriously guys, we really appreciate your support.
For more information and to find out how you can take part in this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge, please visit the website: www.e4agolf.com.
Again, thanks so much for your support.
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- After finishing third last week at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, Adam Scott flew off to get an early preview of Augusta National.
Joining him on the trip: Ernie Els.
Awkward? Not for these longtime friends, even after Els’ second British Open crown came in large part to Scott’s slow-motion implosion over Royal Lytham’s final four holes.
“Whether he won it, or I helped him win it a little bit – it doesn’t matter. He won it,” Scott said after Friday’s second-round 66 moved him into contention at the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank.
“It probably eased the pain a little bit that he’s a close friend of mine, and I could feel some happiness for him.”
Likewise, Els was profuse in his sympathy almost from the moment he took possession of the Claret Jug. Their friendship goes back to when Scott was just starting to make a name for himself, when Els already had won two majors.
Scott, 32, stood at the doorstep of his first major with four holes to play at Royal Lytham, with Els having already completed his round.
Instead, four bogeys provided a stunning reversal of fortune as Els ended a 10-year drought in majors.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen on a golf course,” said Scott, who also took part in an Els for Autism event Monday before they took off for Augusta. “I’ve played so much golf with him and seen him do such incredible things. I think he could have won 10 majors, so he’s paid his dues.”
Rather than lament his loss, Scott takes heart in the fact that he’s now making noise in majors after nearly a decade of silence.
“It was a long time (that) I didn’t really look like I was a major contender,” he said, “and now I feel like I am. So I feel like now’s my time; it’s up to me to make it happen.
“Everyone’s path to that success is different. I mean, (Phil) Mickelson knocked on the door for years and years and then the floodgates opened for him. I’ve gotten my game to a point where I feel like I’m right there. Hopefully I can get the first one, and then we’ll see.”
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM this year and here is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
I was really looking forward to going back to Doral, especially having missed this tournament last year. It’s a special place. I’ve been playing there since 1994 and won twice. When you think of all the great champions at Doral, to have my name on that list is obviously very special.
The week didn’t go too great, though, mainly because my right hip was causing me problems again. It’s been bugging me for a while now and then it really went into spasm on Thursday morning. I was on the first tee thinking 'maybe I shouldn’t be starting this round.' Anyway, I tried to play through it, but it’s not feeling right. I’ve got to get this sorted, which is the reason I had to withdraw from this week’s tournament in Tampa Bay.
The only outing I’ll have this week is travelling up to Augusta National on Tuesday to have a gentle walk around the course, but other than that I’ll have to pretty much rest-up for most of this week. Doctors orders, as they say.
Still, there was plenty of good news coming out of Doral. We did a joint press conference with Donald Trump at the start of the week to make some important announcements about the Els for Autism Foundation.
First of all we launched this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge. There is plenty of information on our homepage right now, so I don’t need to go into too much detail here, but suffice to say we owe considerable thanks to Mr. Trump for his support. Six of our 22 regional qualifiers are being hosted at Trump courses around the United States, which is a huge boost to our fundraising campaign. They are fine golf courses and Mr. Trump is generously giving us a break on the rent, which saves us a lot of money in fees that we would otherwise have had to pay to other golf clubs. We’d spoken in the past about this and Mr. Trump always said he would help us. He’s truly a man of his word.
Of course, that means more cash goes directly towards funding the proposed Els for Autism Center of Excellence, which is moving ever closer to becoming a reality. We’ve raised a lot of money already and with the help of Mr. Trump and our sponsors and all the people who take part in these events, we’re going to get this thing done. It is going to be an amazing 30,000 square foot facility, which will be the first of its kind in the world. These are special kids and they need some really special help, and that’s what this Center is all about.
For the past few years we’ve started the ball rolling on our fundraising campaign with the now traditional Els for Autism Pro-Am held at PGA National, which took place on Monday and as always was organized by a good friend of mine Marvin Shanken, the publisher of Wine Spectator and Cigar Aficionado.
The day was a huge success. With the way my hip was feeling I had to take things pretty easy, but luckily we had the support of many of my fellow TOUR professionals including Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood, Keegan Bradley, Bo Van Pelt and many more. This report is another opportunity for me to thank everyone involved. Seriously guys, we really appreciate your support.
We’ll have more news and a gallery of images from the Els for Autism Pro-Am published on the website later this week, but until then, bye for now.
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a blog periodically for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his most recent installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
PGA National certainly lived up to its reputation as one of the tougher golf courses that we play all year on the PGA TOUR and actually the playing conditions changed quite a lot as the week went on. When we arrived the golf course was wet and lush with receptive greens, but by the weekend the wind had dried the course out and it was playing quite firm.
Either way, you’ve got a serious test on your hands. We were getting ‘mud balls’ the first couple of rounds – to be honest, I felt like it was probably wet enough to have lift and clean on both days – and then obviously when the course dried out and the wind got up this is the type of layout where you don’t need to do much wrong to make a bogey or a double. It’s really tough. You only have to look at the scores out there to see evidence of that. Only three guys broke par for their final 36 holes, which pretty much says it all.
Despite finishing tied-46th I’d say my game is in pretty decent shape. Not making a lot of putts, but burning a lot of edges so that could easily turn around. You know how this game is. Overall, though, I just need to sharpen things up and get my scoring pattern a bit more consistent. At the moment, it’s too much up and down for my liking. Just got to keep working hard.
On the upside, it was good to have my old caddie Ricci Roberts back on the bag. He’s had some health issues this past six months and probably still has a bit of work to do on that front. We just don’t know how that’s going to go, so for this year we’ve agreed that Ricci shares caddie duties with Colin Byrne who’s been on the bag while Ricci was away. They’re both great guys, I’ve known them both for a long time and they’re obviously very experienced, so it’s kind of a nice situation to have. We’ll see how things go this season.
Just before we talk about this week, I want to congratulate Dawie Van Der Walt who won the inaugural Tshwane Open at The Els Club Copperleaf in South Africa at the weekend. It’s the first time an Ernie Els Design golf course has hosted a European Tour event and I hear the course was in great shape, so well done to all the guys out there. It was nice to see three home players at the top of the leaderboard. One of our former Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation members James Kamte also had a strong week. Good news all round, then!
So, moving on to this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Doral, another of my favorite stops of the year. I love the straightforward playability of this golf course. It’s a well-balanced test. There are holes where you need to fade it, others that require a draw. You’ve got monster par 4s – including the 18th, which is one of the toughest holes on the PGA TOUR – and you’ve got short par 4s, a nice mixture of par 3s and par 5s. You need to be able to work the ball and have all the shots to score well. Personally, over the years I’ve preferred it when the wind gets up a bit and the golf course plays firm and fast.
That’s what the conditions were like when I won my two tournaments here at Doral, most recently in the 2010 CA Championship when I made 23 birdies and just five bogeys – that’s pretty good going on this golf course. Also back in 2002 I won the Genuity Championship here, which I’ll always remember as one of the best performances of my career. Let’s see if we can make it three wins!
Before all that I’m starting my week playing in the Seminole member-guest day, which is always a lot of fun. Playing this wonderful old Florida golf course is also a nice warm-up for the serious business at Doral. I’m looking forward to it.
Ernie Els' record at PGA National puts him on the short list for The Honda Classic. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Rob Bolton, Fantasy Insider
Now that you've survived the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship by respecting the format which in turn preventing you from burning a big name -- right?! -- it's time to revisit the stable of options for this week's The Honda Classic.
What's interesting and potentially pivotal is that there isn't a frontrunner of a candidate. Twelve of the top 20 all-time money leaders at this event (including pre-2007 when PGA National first hosted) are in the field, but I quickly whittled the list of viable options down to four -- Y.E. Yang (second all-time), Ernie Els (11th), Rory McIlroy (12th) and Justin Rose (17th).
Since many one-and-dones exclude defending champions as an option, omit McIlroy. Until he flashes his usual form, he'll remain holstered anyway. Also consider that the purse is only $6 million, not enough to roll the dice on the Ulsterman. Yang is a former winner (2009) and runner-up (2011), but I'd limit him to a two-man format at best.
Els' five consecutive cuts made at PGA National began with a title in 2008. He makes some sense this week if he wasn't already on your short lists for the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, Arnold Palmer Invitational or the U.S. Open. Plugging him in somewhere on the Florida Swing is almost a no-brainer. Rose has value at quite a few venues, not the least of which is this week's host course where he's posted top fives in his last two visits, finishing at 7-under in each.
Graeme McDowell is another strong choice thanks to top 10s in each of the last two editions. He's also coming off a good showing at Dove Mountain. Last year, I burned Lee Westwood who cooperated with a solo fourth for his second top 10 in three appearances.
Yet, while various angles on the aforementioned tug at me, I'm going to ride Charl Schwartzel, who sits No. 1 in my Power Rankings. He's finished T14 (2011) and T5 (2012) in his starts at PGA National and has an active streak of seven consecutive top fives in stroke-play events, including two thrashing victories in December.
Last week: Ian Poulter; 4th; $500,000.00
Overall Record: 6-for-8
Top 5s: 3
Top 10s: 4
Top 25s: 6
Missed Cuts: 2
Editor's note; Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his most recent installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall oF Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
Obviously, it’s disappointing to be posting this blog … having lost in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship against Freddie Jacobson, but it kind of sums up my record in this event. It wasn’t a great quality match, to be honest. I was 2 up early on, but I played the last 10 holes in probably a couple over par and if you do that you can’t be surprised when you lose.
It’s strange. I just can’t seem to get a run in this tournament, but that’s 18-hole match play golf. There were another 32 disappointed golfers packing their bags on Thursday night, as well. This format takes no prisoners!
I’m back home already and we’ll do some work on my game over the weekend, just basically get ready for next week’s Honda Classic at PGA National. With us living at the Bear’s Club this is pretty much a home game and that’s always nice. Actually my schedule for the next few weeks shapes up well for not having to travel far, another of the benefits of being based here in Florida.
We’ve had some good times in this tournament over the years, the highlight being a win in 2008, and of course it’s always great to come back to a place where you’ve won before – it always gives you a good vibe.
The Champion Course, a Tom Fazio design with Jack Nicklaus updates, is definitely one of the more demanding courses on the PGA TOUR. You can shoot a low number here, but if the wind blows it’s a serious test. You've got more opportunities to make birdies on the front nine, but I don't think there’s a tougher finish line than this anywhere we play. The 15th, 16th and 17th are such strong holes and the 18th is a wonderful par 5.
I remember playing a great final round in the wind to win here in 2008 and that gives you such a buzz – to play well in tough conditions on a tough course. At times like that you have to commit to your shots and execute what you see. That’s what we hit all those practice balls for. I’d love to put myself in the same position again. A bit of local knowledge can’t do any harm!
Anyway, I’ll write again very soon because we’re just about ready to make an announcement on the 2013 Els for Autism Golf Challenge. The guys have done an incredible job putting together a great schedule of events hosted by some of America’s finest golf courses and we’d love for you to be a part of it.
Okay, that’s it for now.
MARANA, Ariz. -- Through five holes, Fredrik Jacobson had suffered two bogeys and a double bogey and was 2 down in his first-round match to Ernie Els.
But three holes later, Jacobson had squared the match, and the 12th-seeded Swede went on to beat the No. 5 seed Els, 1 up. The Swede advances to play Marcus Fraser in the second round.
Jacobson won the seventh hole with a par and the eighth with a birdie. He then birdied the 11th and 12th holes to go 2 up, but saw Els rally back to square the match at the 15th hole.
Jacobson won the final hole with par when Els three-putted from 32 feet.
"The greens are tricky," Jacobson said. "They're a little slick sometimes. It's been a long day out there. I was just happy to come through in the end."
Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013 and this is his most recent installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
It’s hard to think of a better place than Riviera to start your PGA TOUR campaign. We’re so well-looked after here and to my mind it’s one of the premier events on the schedule. The golf course deserves that. It’s a classic test, with everything right there in front of you, and the bunkering is spectacular. You feel like you should shoot a low number, but this course can grab you, especially if you miss greens in the wrong spots. It’s such a great design.
Anyway, I’d already played three events this year on the European Tour and to be honest I was pretty rusty out there. I was definitely hoping for better things at Riviera and my target at the start was to shoot four rounds in the 60s. I didn’t quite manage that, but 5-under par wasn’t a million miles away and a pair of 68s on Friday and Sunday showed me that my game is in better shape than it was in the Middle East. I feel encouraged by that, but probably need to step it up to have a decent run at this week’s World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship..
My record here is a little patchy, shall we say. Every year I get asked for an explanation and that’s usually the moment when people also bring up the World Matchplay at Wentworth, which I won seven times. What can I say? You just can’t compare the two. The Accenture is a different type of event, not least because the matches are just 18 holes. Over one round, anyone is capable of beating anyone else. We’ve seen it time and again here.
Looking back, what’s maybe hurt me most over the years is a slow start and in an 18-hole match that can kill you, so you have to try to be aggressive from the get-go. Basically, try to be the player applying the pressure, not the one receiving it. My first match is against Freddie Jacobson who had a pretty good week at Riviera, so he’s obviously playing well. I need to be on my game.
We start on Wednesday, so I’m already here in our rental home at nearby Stone Canyon, where we’ve stayed every year since they moved this tournament from La Costa. It’s a great place. The members, the staff, everyone is just so welcoming and friendly. A few years back they kindly gave me honorary membership. It makes coming back to this tournament every year that extra bit special…and hopefully this year we get to stay through to the weekend!
Whatever the outcome, I’ll be sure to write again between finishing here and teeing it up in my next tournament, The Honda Classic. That’s virtually a ‘home game’ for me these days.
Until then, bye for now.