European Tour Statement Re: Ernie Els' Remarks
European Tour Chief Executive George O'Grady said: "Ernie Els asked to see me this morning and apologized for his intemperate language following the conclusion of his round yesterday. He stated that he had already apologised to all the individuals concerned and offered a substantial donation to The European Tour Benevolent Trust, which I accepted. The European Tour now consider this matter closed."
[Jack] Whitaker covered, and delivered essays about, all manner of sport. He wrote as he dressed, with tweedy charm. He said of his favorite game, “Golf is the most movable feast of all.” That is, it could be played everywhere, from Merion, where he was a member, to the public courses of Philadelphia where he learned the game in the 1940s. MICHAEL BAMBERGER
You be the judge of whose picture is going to be placed in the center for the Commissioner's daily C-level dart throwing and general male bonding session.
Ernie Els, talking to Doug Ferguson about missing the Presidents Cup (possibly). The problem rests with the European Tour's scheduling of the South African Open.
Interviewed by Robin Barwick using questions questions from Mark Reason, there was an entertaining round table to promote the Ballantine’s Championship. The participants were Paul McGinley, Ernie Els, Henrik Stenson and Fred Couples. Plenty of highlights, including talk of Bethpage, golf in the Olympics, Stanford Financial (awkward!) and this technology exchange:
In the arena of equipment technology, is the golf ball flying too far now?
McGinley: I think the horse has bolted. The problem should have been addressed 10 years ago, when the scientists that the USGA and R&A had were not as good as the ones the manufacturers had. The manufacturers basically broke through the gates and went too far with the ball.
Els: I am against stopping technology, but people also need to be careful how they set-up golf courses. Look at Oakland Hills last year [in the US PGA Championship]. Some of those fairways were un-hittable. Look at Shinnecock Hills. A great golf course, but they were scared of the technology and scared of a low score winning, and they screwed up the golf course.
Stenson: Longer is not always better.
Els: Exactly. They need to be careful not to take a great, classic golf course, and just for the sake of stopping someone going low, screwing up the golf course.
McGinley: In fairness, over the last couple of years we have started to see that the USGA, R&A and Augusta are starting to see the picture. Augusta was great this year, Torrey Pines was great last year and Birkdale was great last year, so they are starting to get it now. Mistakes have been made in the past though, no doubt about it.
Stenson does point out that not everyone thought Birkdale was so great last year. But more importantly, it is interesting that when this topic comes up, almost no one suggests that improved athleticism was the cause. Even better, you have folks like Els openly making the connection between over-the-top setups and poor regulatory practices. Just a few years ago only select players like McGinley understood the connection.
The third-ranked player in the world told CBSSports.com on Monday night that he has joined forces with Butch Harmon, who can now boast three of the top eight players in the world rankings as members of his stable. Els had been a client of David Leadbetter for two decades.Uh, Lead couldn't have got in otherwise? What, he's not paying his PGA of America dues?
"We have been friends for 20 years and will always be friends," Els said of Leadbetter. "I'm giving him a ticket here for this week. This is purely a professional thing."
Yet the coaching change came as a surprise, given how long he and Leadbetter have been allies, not to mention former neighbors at an upscale Orlando, Fla., club. Els began working with Harmon three weeks ago on the range in Miami and has been sending the Las Vegas-based swing guru video via computer for the past couple of weeks.
"The wonders of technology," Els said.
The latest Links Magazine features Masters-related columns penned by Ernie Els and Geoff Ogilvy.
Ogilvy compares the Masters and U.S. Open and sums them up this way:
Overall, if I could only play either the Masters or the U.S. Open this year, I’d be lying if I did not say the Masters. With the exception of the changes to the 11th and 17th holes, where the club has planted too many trees, it’s easily the most enjoyable, exciting and fulfilling tournament we play all year.Meanwhile Els seems to have had an epiphany and now likes the changes to Augusta National:
I really like the changes to the course over the past several years. But then again, being one of the longer hitters, I guess in theory it’s supposed to play into my hands. I remember talking to Tiger a couple of years back and we agreed that there’s a real chance the long hitters could separate themselves from the field if they get their games together.Ernie used to be one of those purists who liked Augusta without the second cut:
One thing that has intrigued me is how some purists have a kind of “don’t touch” attitude to Augusta and many of the other great courses. These updates are not an unsightly stain on a masterpiece, but rather a successful restoration that brings back some of the original shot values that the designers intended for players. I support that philosophy.
Ernie Els wishes they would do away with the rough completely.
``It's hard to criticize Augusta National,'' Els said. ``It's one of my favorite places, and it still is. But I really enjoyed it the way it used to be.'
I skimmed this week's columns on Ernie Els's final round difficulties. Chris Lewis links them here with some of his own thoughts.
Well apparently a closer read of the pieces got John Huggan worked up because he thinks Ernie lost his edge in 2004.
Then again, it has been easy for Els' growing band of critics – most of whom seem to be located in the United States – to portray his lofty ambition as mere bravado, designed to deflect attention from the fact that Tiger 'owns' Ernie when it comes to competing late on Sunday afternoons. Ever since 1998, when Woods made up a yawning seven-shot deficit over the closing nine holes before beating Els in a play-off for the Johnnie Walker Classic, the world's best golfer has not yielded once to the man who – it says here – is still the second most talented player in the professional game.
There were, for example, the US Open and Open of 2000. Both were comfortably won by Woods and both times Els was the distant runner-up, a man who could easily be forgiven the thought, "I can't beat this guy".
But, despite the pile of pompous psychobabble spouted by various columnists over the last week or so, it is not Tiger who has cut deepest into Els' confidence over the last few years. In truth, the 24-time European Tour winner has not looked quite the same golfer since 2004, when he suffered two crushing blows at the very highest level. First, Phil Mickelson birdied the final hole to pip Els to the Masters at Augusta. Then, three months later, the unlikely Todd Hamilton took him out in a four-hole play-off for the Open at Royal Troon.
Look closely at the photographs of Els in the immediate aftermath of both defeats. On the practice green at Augusta and on the 18th green at Troon he has the same glassy-eyed gaze into the middle distance. Each time, he seems to be saying to his suddenly disembodied self, "I can't believe this".
Ernie Els opened up to the
Western BMW Championship press today and ignited a bit of a firestorm...
Q. It seems like the top players, three in a row is the max where they feel they can give everything mentally maybe more than physically. Do you think maybe scheduling four weeks in a row is just one too many?Making up excuses? Hmmm...
ERNIE ELS: You know, as we said, when I announced all the changes at the end of last year, beginning of this year, everybody was like, what do you think, what do you think, and we all said, let's see how it all pans out. Nobody knows exactly how this thing is going to work. Let's see how it works out.
Obviously the way things have been going, I haven't realized really through the year, but since the U.S. Open we've had big events upon big events, right through until now. The guys that play Europe events like myself, we played the Scottish Open before the British Open, so there's another two weeks. And then you come over and then there's the Bridgestone, then the PGA. Then we had a week off, and then before now, and then we get a week off and then we play The Presidents Cup. Next year they have the Ryder Cup. I don't know what they're going to do next year.
As we said, nobody really knew how this thing was going to pan out, and obviously now with guys playing and making up all our excuses, but that's the way we feel. Otherwise we can't give it our best shot, so that's the way it is.
Q. You're one of the star players out here. Did they consult with you before this thing went into effect as far as the schedule was going to be so bunched up, and what did you tell them at the time?
ERNIE ELS: That's a good question. Unfortunately, no, they did not express anything to the players. They asked those questions, but they didn't come out and say, okay, look, this is what we're going to do, what do you think. It was all about -- you know, it wasn't directly asked. And unfortunately, we are in this position now because they didn't either listen or they just went on with the decision, and this is where we are.
Q. Would it work to just have a bye week, maybe have an off week right in the middle of the FedExCup?
ERNIE ELS: As I say, you know, I'm just throwing out a little -- throwing out a bone there. Two in a row, look at stuff that's happened this year and see if we can have a bit of a different way forward. You're putting the world golf players really under strain, guys like myself, guys like Tiger, guys like Phil, guys that play on the world stage because you really want to be up for the majors, and then after the majors are now, now you've got to be up for the FedEx. It's tough physically, mentally, on your family, business, everything, to keep yourself away from so-called real life for nine weeks almost. You know, it's difficult.
That's why you need a G5! Oh wait, you already have one right? Sorry. Continue...
Q. Sorry for the bizarre nature of this question, but if you seem at all lukewarm or not sure about the FedExCup thingy or what have you, and this isn't the only scheduling issue you've had with the TOUR in the last three or four years, why do you keep doing so many commercials for them?
ERNIE ELS: I think we like them. You almost have fun with them, and you kind of meet people. I think a lot of players do a lot for the TOUR. Let's face it, the TOUR does a lot for us, too. I just feel in certain ways we've kind of grown apart a little bit, especially the players and the Commissioner's office. We've grown apart from each other because of these big decisions that were made without the real knowledge of the players, you know?
The $10 million deal was a big deal. I don't think Tiger knew about it, Phil didn't know about it, I didn't know about it, a lot of people didn't know. When we heard about it, we thought, geez, that's unbelievable. It still is, but it's -- we're going to see that money hopefully 20, 25 years down the line.
Q. When did you find out about it?
ERNIE ELS: Kind of when everybody found out about it, the first couple of weeks into the season.
You know, you still want to support the TOUR. We love what the TOUR has done for us, but we just need to get closer to the big decisions because then we won't get into problems down the line, you know? I know there's a board and there's another board. There's two boards. There's a players' board, which I don't think means much. They don't have any ballot. The ballot is all done behind closed doors. That's kind of where we're growing apart.
So, this week we stay on the east coast of the United States, making the short journey from New York to Boston for the Deutsche Bank Championship which starts on Friday – not the usual Thursday start – at TPC Boston. This is an Arnold Palmer-designed golf course and it has a lovely mature, almost traditional feel about it. I like it. I understand they’ve made a few changes since we were last here and I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback. I’ve made a pretty good start to this FedEx Cup playoff series, so I really want to push on from here and win one of these things.
So, yeah, the confidence is growing. My game feels in good shape. That gives me a lot of reasons to be optimistic about this week’s Deutsche Bank.
I’ll write again next Tuesday and tell you all about it.
Jaime Diaz not only shares several of Tiger's technical adjustments that led to his wins at Firestone and Southern Hills, but also looks at the possibility of an Ernie Els resurgence, offering this from his agent:
"I think Ernie is really back to his old self," said his agent, Chubby Chandler. "He's much more relaxed, and he's comfortable with his game again. He's settling back when he's out to dinner, having a glass of wine, laughing and getting back to who he really is. And he's not got Tiger on his mind. He's getting a bit more chilled out. He's not getting in his own way."
I swear I heard Ernie Els say things on the Golf Channel version of his post round press conference that did not make the transcript, so, working with the digital edition, here are a few highlights after his second place finish at Southern Hills:
Q. There are times when people come in here after Tiger has won a major and he just went out and beat everybody. Do you feel like you guys really put up the fight that you wanted to, and that maybe you did some things that kept you from winning today?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, I mean, every day I've made a bunch of birdies. You know, I haven't done that in any majors that I've played recently.
So, you know, there's a lot of good in my game. As I just said, you know, I'm not quite there where I think I can be. But if I get up to this next level where I want to be, maybe I can at least give him a real go, a run for his money. Because somebody needs to step up; he's playing some awesome golf.
My Callaway equipment, I'm starting to feel comfortable with it. It's been a big change for me this year, I changed before the Masters, and I'm starting to feel comfortable with that. My putting is better, my short game is coming around. I just have to keep going on this trend and hopefully start giving him a go soon.
And it's still the thingy...
Q. You said before that you're just a little shy of that next level. I just want to find out, what's going to have to happen to get you to the next level, and do you believe more in yourself as Major Champion again after the past month?
ERNIE ELS: Yeah, first of all, I do believe that I'm working on the right stuff, and I've made strides, especially the last couple of months.
But you know, you just -- I just need to keep working on it. I just keep grinding it out, you know. I'm happy with my equipment, the way things are going.
We've got the FedEx thingy coming up; I'd like to play well there and finish my year off here in America. I need to start, you know, basically winning tournaments, and that will create more confluence, and winning becomes almost a habit; look at Tiger.
I had a couple of years where I won a lot of tournaments, and you start feeling a lot more comfortable on Sundays and Saturdays and weekends, so that's what I'm working on. Thanks, guys.
Thanks to reader James for this Norman Dabell Reuters story where you can just feel the excitement oozing from Ernie's lips...
Even though Els found Oakmont exasperating he still maintained the British Open at Carnoustie in 1999 was "the toughest major I've ever played".
After playing Carnoustie for next month's British Open, Els's schedule then really takes off in America -- whether he likes it or not.
"It's the start of the FedExCup thingy," he said. "I think I'm going to play six out of seven weeks and try and make some silly points."