Els Charting His Own Course
'I made big strides this week,' Els said after winning the Sony Open for the second straight year in a playoff. 'It's a long, hard battle all year. I want to give it a go, see if I can contend in the majors and follow my dream and hopefully achieve it one day. I'm feeling good.'
Els swept both PGA Tour events a year ago, the Mercedes Championships and the Sony Open. Everyone figured he was poised to have a big year and challenge Tiger Woods.
He went on to win seven times around the world, but he failed to win a major and lost ground to Woods.
Els had to settle for only one victory on the islands this year, but it was memorable.
His week began on Tuesday when he played a practice round with 14-year-old Michelle Wie, who posted the best score (68) by a woman competing against the men on the PGA Tour.
Wie said her practice round with Els put her at ease for the week, and her performance was remarkable. With two birdies on her final three holes, she missed the cut by one shot.
The Big Wiesy gave way to the Big Easy at the end of the week.
Els closed with a 65 and holed a do-or-die birdie putt from 10 feet on the final hole to force a playoff with Harrison Frazar. On the first extra hole, Els had to get up-and-down for par to extend the playoff. Then after blowing a great opportunity to win, he closed out the Texan with a 30-foot birdie on third playoff hole.
He became the first repeat winner at Waialae since Corey Pavin in 1987, and the first player since Nick Faldo in the Masters (1989-90) to win the same tournament back-to-back in a playoff.
Where does it leave him?
All over the place.
Els is the most global golfer among active players. He will take a week off in Thailand before playing in the Johnnie Walker Classic, then play twice in Australia before returning to the PGA Tour, either in February or March.
When he returns, he has two players to catch.
Woods, who did not play in the Sony Open, remains No. 1 and likely will stay there at least another year.
Vijay Singh is No. 2, and his 10th consecutive finish in the top 10 at the Sony Open did nothing to suggest that was going to change.
Els, however, is concerned only with himself.
Once a sleepy little event, the Sony Open has emerged as one of the best stops on the PGA Tour. Waialae is a classic design that tests all aspects of the game, and with much of the country stuck in the snow, Honolulu is not the worst place to be in January.
'This used to be a hidden gem,' Els said.
Asked if he would advise Woods to play at Waialae, Els smiled.
'No,' he said. 'Why should he come? He can stay in Florida.'
Els, once spooked by the sight of Woods winning four straight majors and dominating golf, has been making those jokes for the better part of a year.
Even so, he is conditioning his psyche to pay more attention to his own game than to what Woods is doing.
But the two might cross paths more often this year.
Woods is scheduled to play in the Dubai Desert Classic in early March, where Els is the defending champion. There also is speculation that Woods will play at the World Match Play Championship in England in the fall, were the Big Easy is defending his title and aiming for a record sixth victory.
Does it matter where Woods plays?
'Tiger is Tiger,' Els said. 'You know he's going to be around. It really doesn't matter all that much. Hopefully, I can play like at Dubai when we meet again. I just want to get better and stay on course.'
It isn't just Woods he is chasing.
Vijay Singh has emerged as another layer for Els to get through.
The big Fijian made some bad swings and caught some bad breaks at the Sony Open, taking a double bogey in three rounds. He also made 19 birdies and two eagles, and when the final scores were tallied, he had his 10th consecutive top-10 finish dating to the PGA Championship in August.
Still, Els reminded everyone at Waialae that he is still a player who can win any week.
His performance at the Sony Open suggests he should buy some property along Waialae. Els has shot all 16 rounds in the 60s since he started playing the tournament in 2001. He has never finished worse than fifth.
A lei was draped around his neck as he left for the airport Sunday night. He had a beer in his hand, and his spirits were high. Despite his nickname, he is not one to relax when it comes to his golf.
Els could have won the Sony Open much earlier than a playoff if not for a silly three-putt bogey on the 15th. Frazar took advantage by catching Els with a birdie on the 17th, and the Texan twice had putts that would have won.
'I can get better,' Els said. 'Look at 15 -- you three-putt when you shouldn't. Then you make it really hard on yourself. There are still things I can improve on. I've got to keep grinding away.'
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings
Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.
Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.
As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.
"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."
Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.
Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.
Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut
If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.
Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.
But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.
Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.
Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:
Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180
Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70
Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5
Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450
Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200
Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.