Els Lefty Has Edge on Tiger at Augusta

By Associated PressApril 12, 2006, 4:00 pm
2006 Verizon HeritageHILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Ernie Els sees a shift at the Masters.
 
He suspects that Phil Mickelson -- with two Masters titles in three years -- may have eclipsed Tiger Woods as the golfer to beat at Augusta National.
 
'I think Phil has got the game there now,' Els said Wednesday.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els signs autographs during Wednesday's pro-am at Harbour Town.
Els was the only one of golf's 'Big Five' -- Mickelson, Woods, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen -- competing at the Verizon Heritage, which starts Thursday.
 
Els has witnessed Mickelson's Masters rise. Mickelson's breakthrough major came two years ago at Augusta National when his 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole sealed a one-stroke victory over Els.
 
Then last week, Els was paired with Mickelson for the first 36 holes as he steadily played himself into contention. Els was impressed with Mickelson's control off the tee, the trajectory of his irons and his continued wizardry around the greens.
 
Plus, Mickelson is no longer burdened with the question of when he'll win Augusta.
 
'He just goes out and goes about his business,' Els said. 'So I think Phil, almost more than Tiger, has got more Masters in him, maybe.'
 
Mickelson will have to double his Masters' output to catch up with Woods' four green jackets. And both have work to do to tie Jack Nicklaus' record six Masters titles.
 
Chris DiMarco doesn't see a shift at the top at Augusta. He lost in a playoff to Woods there last year and says the course features are ready made for Tiger.
 
'Phil is a great player. I have a lot of respect for his game, it's awesome,' DiMarco said. 'But that course sets up great for Tiger. If (Woods) putted at all like he normally putts ... it would've been closer.'
 
Els is trying to close in on his elite form. He's recovering well from last season's injury, when he did not compete from July to December after surgery to fix a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. 'I'm physically quite fit at the moment, and the leg was fine,' Els said. 'The game wasn't quite there.'
 
Els shared seventh at the Ford Championships at Doral and tied for eighth at The Players Championship last month. Els was tied with Mickelson at 2-under par halfway through the Masters last week. That's when things fell apart, Els going 74-76 on the weekend to fall from contention.
 
'I've got myself in certain positions already, the last couple of weeks, the last month,' Els said. 'But I just, for some reason, haven't sustained it or haven't gone forward on to the next little stage.'
 
Harbour Town is as good a place as any for Els to take that step.
 
Els has had five top 10 finishes in seven appearances. Those have included a couple of disheartening defeats.
 
Els squandered a five-stroke lead in the final round here in 2000 as Stewart Cink won the first of his two Verizon Heritage crowns. Three years ago, Els was again in front on Sunday when he drove out of bounds on the 16th hole for a double bogey, then closed with two more bogeys to tie for 10th.
 
Still, Els feels he'll eventually earn the tartan jacket that goes the Verizon Heritage champion.
 
'I love this place,' he said. 'You've got play good, tidy, aggressive golf here.'
 
Part of the appeal, Els says, is it isn't anything like the week before. Els rents a house on the resort island, bikes with his family and relaxes at the beach.
 
'Do all the tourist things,' he said, laughing.
 
It's an approach Jim Furyk can understand, to a point.
 
'A lot of guys say it's like they get to decompress after Augusta,' he said. 'If I wanted to decompress, I think I'd go on vacation rather than come back to work. But it's definitely a little bit more relaxing week.'
 
Els hopes to unpack a Masters' championship ahead of Harbour Town, no matter who's got the hot hand at Augusta National.
 
'I've had a couple of really good (Masters) finishes, so I know what it takes,' Els said. 'And definitely, I have the game. Yeah, I'm still looking forward to winning that tournament.'
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.