Editor’s note: Ernie Els is writing a weekly blog for PGATOUR.COM in 2012 and this is his latest installment. For more information on the World Golf Hall of Famer, visit www.ernieels.com
I was at home in Florida all last week, basically dividing my time between relaxing and working on my game. Then at the weekend I switched into proper sport’s fan mode and like everyone else enjoyed watching the Ryder Cup on television. Obviously I’ve got friends on both teams, but whatever your allegiances it was hard to think of a more enthralling day’s golf than Sunday’s series of singles matches. I’ve certainly never seen anything like it – pure sporting drama of the best kind. Amazing stuff.
It’ll be fun to catch up with a few of the guys on the European team who I know are teeing it up in this week’s Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland. I’d say this is definitely one of my favorite stops and there are many reasons why that’s the case. Obviously, it’s a unique format, but for me the heart of this tournament’s appeal is the three great links courses that we get to play – St. Andrews Old Course, Carnoustie and Kingsbarns. Everyone knows how much I love links golf.
The weather invariably plays a big part here, but all things being equal there’s no doubt in my mind Carnoustie is the toughest. I’d say the Old Course is my favurite of the three. They are all wonderful golf courses in their own right, though. I think my great friend Johann Rupert has done a fantastic job with this tournament and over the years it’s gone from strength to strength. You get the feeling that the Scottish public has really warmed to this event and it’s always a pleasure for us players to see so many real golf fans out there supporting us.
Another reason I love this week is I usually team up with my dad, as I am this year, and that’s special. We don’t get to spend much time together during the year and we don’t play much golf, either. This tournament kind of makes up for that, which is really nice. We haven’t won this thing yet, but Dad maybe needs a couple more shots on these golf courses and I need to play better. Maybe this year…who knows? We’ll certainly be trying our best, but also making sure we have some fun along the way.
That’s the thing here. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere than a regular TOUR event and, although as professionals we never forget we’re here to compete and win, at the same time you try to embrace that whole pro-am vibe. I’ve got a lot of friends from other sports who tee it up every year and it’s fun seeing them.
All in all, I have a lot of fond memories from playing here over the years, including being called away in 2002 for a last-minute rush down to London for the birth of my son! I could never forget that 6 a.m. weekend wake-up call. It was a bit of a blur for a while, to be honest, but somehow I made it to the hospital in Guildford at 9.30 a.m. and Ben was born less than an hour later. It was a close-run thing.
The one memory I don’t have from this tournament is a win. I’ve come close a few times, but maybe winning the Open this year will be a good omen for me. Maybe I can do the ‘links double’. That would be extra special. Whatever happens I’m sure it’s going to be another great four or five days for my dad and me. You couldn’t really share this kind of experience in any other sport but golf and I cherish that.
I’ll write again soon.