Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013. This is his most recent installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com
As I said in my previous report, since returning from the ‘Middle East Swing’ I’ve been working hard on my fitness and my golf game here at The Bear’s Club in sunny Florida. Really the only deviation from the program was a day’s filming last Thursday for a new golf instruction App. Everyone is really excited about this product. We shot some great footage and now a team of very talented, creative people is working hard to put it all together for an official launch in the summer. I'll be in a position to let you know much more about this App as we get closer to the release date.
Right now it’s time to focus on the day job and this week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, which is for me the start of a nice stretch of tournaments leading up to the Masters. I won at Riviera way back at the end of the 1990s, but even if I hadn’t had a victory here then this would still be one of my favorite golf courses on the PGA TOUR. It’s a real classic of its type. The angles they have with the greens, the way the course flows; it’s just fantastic. Riviera also has some of the best bunkering you’ll see anywhere in the world.
We flew in on Monday afternoon and started the week with a photo shoot on Tuesday for one of my sponsors, RBC. Then we’re into the pro-am on Wednesday and obviously the first round tees off on Thursday. As I said before, I’m excited about being back here. It’s not been the best start to my year, to be honest, so let’s see if we can step things up a bit and play some good golf. Not many better places than Riviera to do that!
Anyway, there’s just one final piece of news before signing off. I want to tell you a bit about this year’s Els for Autism Golf Challenge. We’ll have an official announcement very soon, but I can tell you that in our third year we have another really strong schedule of events at some great golf courses. This is the largest charity-driven golf tournament in U.S. history and it all tees off in April. Look out for more details online and see how you and your buddies can participate and maybe win a spot in the Vegas Grand Finale.
Okay that’s it. Bye for now.
Luke Donald is one of a handful of notable players making his PGA TOUR season debut this week at the Northern Trust Open.
Three years ago, Donald nearly won at Riviera, finishing second to Steve Stricker. The last two years haven't been as kind to Donald -- he missed the cut last year and finished outside the top 50 in 2011. For more on Donald, check out his Top 100 to Watch in 2013 profile.
Others notables making their debut this week, include:
Sergio Garcia: This marks the second time in as many years Garcia has opened his TOUR season at Riviera. Last year, he tied for fourth at Hogan's Alley. In 2007, he finished sixth.
Graeme McDowell: This is the first time since 2009 McDowell is playing the Northern Trust Open. He's missed the cut twice and finished in a tie for 41st in his only appearances there.
Adam Scott: The 2007 Northern Trust Open winner has two finishes in the top 20 in his last three trips to L.A., including a tie for 17th a year ago when he also began his TOUR season there.
Ernie Els: The reigning British Open champ has already played three times on the European Tour. This is the latest Els has made his TOUR debut since 2008 when he opened with the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship.
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Ernie Els committed to The Honda Classic on Monday, giving the tournament two of the four major champions from 2012 with defending champion and PGA Championship winner Rory McIlroy already in the field.
Els, who won The Honda Classic in 2008, was an improbable winner at last year's British Open amid Adam Scott's collapse over the final four holes.
Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell are also among the early commitments to The Honda Classic, Feb. 23 to March 3 at PGA National Resort and Spa.
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.
Two tournaments in and it’s been a bit of a slow start to my year – tied-18th in Durban and tied-39th in Abu Dhabi at the weekend. Obviously you hope for better, but we’re all trying to shake off a little early season rust and you never quite know how that’s going to work out. I just haven’t quite found my competitive rhythm yet. My scoring is a bit up and down, to be honest.
Abu Dhabi certainly wasn’t the type of golf course where you could get away with making mistakes. It’s a strong test and it’s easy to make some bogeys out there. Overall, though, I’m not displeased. I played some good stuff and I feel comfortable with my swing; I just need to sharpen things up a bit.
Hopefully that will come this week in Doha at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters. It’s been a while since I teed it up here, but I’m excited to be back. The memories are still fresh from my win in 2005. That was the first time I’d played this tournament and it capped a pretty special couple of weeks for me.
We’d won in Dubai the week before, eagling the last hole to beat Miguel (Angel Jimenez), and then here in Doha we made up a big deficit in the final round to shoot 65 and just pip Henrik (Stenson) to make it back-to-back wins in the desert. I remember the wind was really blowing that day, as it often does here, and that kind of suits my game. I won’t mind if it blows again this year.
Wind or no wind, having played well at Doha in previous years I have to like my chances here again. I’d certainly love to get my hands on that wonderful Mother of Pearl Trophy for a second time. That’s my intention.
Anyway, there’s just one more item of interest before I sign off. You may have noticed a new addition to the website homepage this week, a clock by Breitling who I’ve just signed a new partnership with.
I’ve always had a passion for watches and Breitling is an iconic brand that I’ve long admired who creates beautifully crafted and precise timepieces that I know I’m going to enjoy wearing. With my love of flying and Breitling’s affinity with the history of aviation this feels like the perfect partnership, one of genuine shared values. It’s a pleasure to be associated with the company.
Okay, that’s it for now. I’ll write again soon.
Editor's note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2013. To learn more about the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
I’ve had a bit of success at Durban Country Club in the past. I love this golf course and the Volvo is a great event for South African golf, so I was glad to start my year here. After a long break you never know quite where you are with your game. I’ve been shooting some scores in practice and I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball nicely, but like everyone else there’s a little rust to shake off.
Starting my first round with three straight birdies was a nice little bonus, but after that it was a battle. It was wet and windy out there and the conditions were pretty challenging. In fact, the last five or six holes the rain came down big time, so all in all I was pleased to shoot 68. And it was fun playing for the first time with Nicolas Colsaerts. I’ve played with Bubba and Dustin and those guys just bomb it 40 yards further than any of us. Nicolas is unbelievable, though. I was coming in from a different zip code on a couple of holes!
For the next couple of days I’d say the word ‘rusty’ was about the best way to describe my game. I played okay and hit a lot of greens, but it just wasn’t as sharp as it needed to be – basically, a few too many missed opportunities and some basic errors here and there. Still, this early in the season you really have to take it one step at a time and as I said it was nice to kick things off at DCC.
It was nice also for the fans to see another home player win this tournament and it’s a proud moment for everyone at the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, because Louis is the second of our former members to win this tournament after Branden Grace did it in 2012. These guys have so much talent and they’re an inspiration to the young kids not only at our Foundation but also right across the country. They’re doing a great job flying the flag for South African golf.
Okay, so I’m in the Middle East now for a couple of weeks – the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship followed by the Commercialbank Qatar Masters – before we go to the States and start our run to the Masters. We haven’t been here in a while and in actual fact, this is the first time I’ve played Abu Dhabi. I’m excited to be here. I’ve always said this region has a special place in my heart. I’ve won here four times, including my first ever European Tour victory in Dubai almost 20 years ago, and I have a lot of good friends here.
It’s also an important region for Ernie Els Design, with us having created the Els Club Dubai, and in actual fact the club professional from there is teeing it up in Abu Dhabi this week. Callum Nicoll clinched the last spot in a qualifier last month -- quite an achievement for a guy who probably plays only one round of golf a week. We’ll play a practice round in the next couple of days. Callum knows this golf course better than I do so he can show me where to hit it.
Anyway, I’ve heard it’s a great tournament and a strong golf course. Obviously it would be great to add this title to my collection. Let’s see how we go.
The family had a wonderful break either side of Christmas, first in Florida and then in South Africa, but it’s definitely time to get back to work now. And I’m delighted that my 2013 schedule is teeing off this week at the Volvo Golf Champions, playing in front of my home fans and on one of my favorite golf courses in South Africa.
I’ve always enjoyed my golf at Durban Country Club. I’ve won here a couple of times before, most recently the South African Open at the end of 2010, and have some great memories of the course. It is a fantastic layout and the home fans really encourage me whenever I play here. I feel a special bond with them and the club.
It should be a great week for South African golf. A prestigious European Tour event like this is broadcast to millions of homes around the world, which not only showcases the fantastic golf facilities our country has to offer but also highlights the current strength of our nation’s golfers. Branden Grace is defending this year and there’s also Retief (Goosen) in the field, Louis Oosthuizen, as well as Jbe Kruger and Darren Fichardt – that’s a pretty strong representation in a limited field event such as this.
Although it was disappointing to miss out on winning the Volvo in 2012, with Retief and me losing to Branden in a playoff at Fancourt, it was good to see Branden make his mark as one of the world’s best players in front of his home crowd. Not so long ago he was a member of the Ernie Els & Fancourt Foundation, as in fact was Louis, and we’re so proud of what they have gone on to achieve. They are such an inspiration to our current crop of members.
Anyway, looking further ahead I have a full schedule planned for this year. There is a lot of golf and a lot of travelling. That’s the way it should be. The Open champion should play all around the world and represent the game of golf, but at the same time I’m also planning my schedule around the majors again. That’s my main focus and I’ll be making sure I give myself the best chance to play my best golf on those four weeks. I really like some of the venues this year, especially Muirfield for obvious reasons.
Winning the Open last year means that for the next five years I’m going to be at Augusta, I’m going to be at the U.S. Open, the Open and the U.S. PGA. I see every one of those as an opportunity to add to my major tally. To be honest, I’m excited about my golf and I’m really looking forward to my future again. It’s a great feeling.
Okay, that’s it for now.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here.
2013 PREVIEW: Ernie Els will be seeking his 20th victory on the PGA TOUR in 2013, a number that would assure the affable South African of a lifetime membership. Here's the intriguing quesion: Can the four-time major champion -- who became the first male World Golf Hall of Famer in 18 years to win a major after his induction when he captured the British Open last summer -- branch out in 2013 and add the third or fourth leg of the career Grand Slam to his fine resume?
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: This one is easy. Els, who was on the comeback trail of sorts after finishing a career-low 67th in the FedExCup and 93rd on the money list in 2011, had already posted one runner-up finish when he came to Royal Lytham & St. Annes. He started the final round six strokes behind Adam Scott but closed with a brilliant 68 that included a phenomenal 32 on the homeward nine and won when the Aussie bogeyed his final four holes. Els' second Claret Jug came 10 years after his first. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: Ernie still possesses the buttery tempo he had in his 20s. That tempo helped him win the British Open. I wonder if that's the last "hurrah" of his career or a springboard for more greatness. Els told me at the Accenture Match Play Championship that he was putting so well with the long putter, he might go back to conventional. -- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: His days of an automatic first-round pick are long gone, but there's enough fuel in his tank to still carry a team. His victory at the British Open aside, what impressed me most was that he made a career-high 22 starts in 2012. Sure, he tailed a bit after posing with the Claret Jug, but he picked off a co-runner-up at the HSBC Champions in November to quell our concern. And if you wanted to lean on one factor inside the ropes as to why he became relevant again, he improved an incredible 9.99 percent in scrambling as compared to 2011. For most guys, that doesn't even represent the endpoints for a career, much less a one-year shift. Of course, The Big Easy owns a legendary short game, so it was more of a return to form than anything else. To prepare realistically, now that he's 43, let him slide to the third round. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
SOCIAL MEDIA: Find him on Twitter
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking 11th
Final Playoffs ranking
|Best finishes||1st||British Open|
|By the Numbers Starts: 22
Cuts made: 19
Rounds played: 78
Top-10 finishes: 5
Money List rank: 16th
|TOUR ranking Driving distance: 51st
Driving accuracy: 155th
Greens in regulation: 53rd
Strokes gained-putting: 112th
Scoring average: 25th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN What is your prediction for Ernie Els in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know
Editor’s note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly diary for PGATOUR.COM in 2012. This is his most recent installment. For more information about the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com.
This is my first website report since returning home from China. To be honest, the last couple of weeks have been pretty quiet so there wasn’t a whole lot to write about. This week, though, I’ll be in London for some meetings with my new management group IMG. I also have some media commitments for various magazines and television channels as they prepare their end-of-year packages. Obviously it’s nice to be a part of that. It shows you’ve done something special in the year.
The timing of this visit means I can go and watch the Springboks play England at Twickenham. I don’t get to see many rugby internationals these days, so I’m really looking forward to that.
Then the following week I’ll be back in America for a couple of weeks. Not exactly sure what’s in the diary, but I do know we’re due to do some filming with the guys from Callaway for their 2013 ad campaigns. That’s always a bit of fun.
Other than that I’ll be working on my game. The weather in Florida at this time of the year is ideal, which obviously is one of the reasons we chose to re-locate a few years back. Also the practice facilities at the Bear’s Club are up to PGA TOUR standard. I love it and really you couldn’t ask for more as a TOUR pro.
Anyway, looking a bit further ahead I have only one more tournament on my 2012 schedule, the Iskander Johor Open in the middle of December. The week before that I’ll be doing a series of site visits with the guys from Ernie Els Design. Business is looking pretty good for us in that part of the world.
Finally, just before the year-end we have an Els for Autism Pro Am taking place at Erinvale Golf Club. I’ll tell you a bit more about that nearer the time, though.
Okay, that’s about it for now. I’ll write again soon.
Editor’s note: Ernie Els is writing a blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2012 and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit wwwernieels.com.
I play to win so there is always a slight touch of disappointment when I have an opportunity coming down the stretch on Sunday and I don't pull it off. But on this occasion those emotions are massively outweighed by the many positives in last week’s World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions. On the whole this was a very strong week for me. I played well and I rolled the ball really nicely on the greens. Tied-second on 19 under is easily my best finish since winning the Open back in July. I'll take a lot of satisfaction from that.
Anyway, what’s that they say about beware the injured golfer? I came into the HSBC Champions having sprained my ankle the week before and then been forced to rest-up for most of the week leading up to the tournament. I even had my trainer here with me in China. But it didn’t affect my game, that’s for sure.
Okay, I made a bit of a slow start on Thursday, but then I really got it going in Friday’s second round. I was 8 under through 12 holes and any time you do that you’re thinking really, really low. I just didn’t quite make the putts coming in, but still, 63 was a great score – my lowest round of the year by a couple of shots. It got me right in the mix and, the way I was playing, I was looking forward to the challenge.
At the weekend I raced to the turn in 31 shots on both days and obviously I was thinking “just keep pushing, keep making birdies,” but I couldn’t quite post the number I needed. On Saturday I just made one bad swing on No. 15 and it cost me a visit to the water hazard. In the final round, I couldn’t get the putts to drop coming home.
But as I said earlier, this was a strong week for me and I really enjoyed myself out there. I felt like I was swinging the club pretty nicely and for the most part the putter was working like a dream. Actually, it’s the best feelings I’ve had on the greens since that wonderful back nine at Lytham – the hole almost looked like a bucket and I was just pouring in the putts. That’s how it used to feel all the time!
So I guess it was quite ironic, then, that there was much talk last week in China about the R&A and the USGA possibly banning the belly putter. I was asked for my views and, to be honest, the more you look at it the more complicated it gets. I’d say this issue has a fair bit of mileage in it yet, so there’s not much point in me speculating further right now, but of course it’s a big deal. You’re talking about people’s livelihoods. Some guys have used the belly putter virtually all their lives. We’ll just have to see what happens. I’ll keep using it for the time being.
That’s about it for this blog. I’ll update you very soon on my plans for the next four or five weeks and what tournaments I’ll be playing in.
Bye for now, though.
Reigning British Open champion Ernie Els announced Tuesday that he has signed with IMG.
The four-time major champion, who was inducted into the world Golf Hall of Fame last year, has more than 65 victories worldwide, including 19 on the PGA TOUR. He has strong charitable commitments, as well, working with underprivileged children in his native South Africa and to combat Autism through his Els for Autism foundation.
"IMG has a global network of offices, loads of experienced and dedicated golf staff operating in every aspect of the game so really is best equipped to help me achieve everything I want to do on and off the course,” Els said.
Els' management team at Pros Inc. will move to IMG, as well.