Els Putting Last Week Behind Him

By Associated PressApril 14, 2004, 4:00 pm
HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C. -- Ernie Els spent a tough evening Sunday reliving all the 'what if' moments in his stirring second-place Masters finish to Phil Mickelson last week.
'After the seventh beer, though,' said the Big Easy, laughing, 'I felt a lot better.'
You would have to drink heavily to forget that ending.
Els posted an unbelievable 67 in the final round - helped by eagles on the eighth and 13th holes - only to watch Phil Mickelson shoot a career-defining 31 on Augusta National's back nine to win by a stroke.
'It was a good heavyweight fight, wasn't it?' Els said Wednesday.
Certainly the best on the PGA Tour this year.
Els joked and grinned his way around Harbour Town Golf Links, where he will tee off Thursday at the MCI Heritage.
Still, it was a bitter defeat at a tournament the South African star desperately craved. He returned to his home in Orlando, Fla., and went over every missed shot, botched putt, failed gamble or safe play he could have turned into something special. A couple of shots here or there and Els knew he would be the one celebrating instead of Mickelson.
'What if, what if, what if,' he said, smiling. 'There's so many.'
What helped the recovery were several friends from South Africa at their first Masters amazed by what they saw. Their good cheer, Els said, perked him up and sent him off to the MCI with a feeling of accomplishment rather than one of dread. He spent Monday and Tuesday around his family before coming to Hilton Head.
'You can't kill yourself over it,' he said. 'What's over and done is done.'
Els has two U.S. Opens and a British Open. However, he has rarely felt the intense excitement of his closing dual at the Masters.
'It's almost an out-of-body experience, feeling you can do whatever it takes to succeed,' he said. 'I could see that Phil was in the exact same frame of mind.'
For the first time, Mickelson won at one of the game's major events. Mickelson put an 8-iron about 18 feet away on the 18th green, then made the birdie putt for victory. Els was on the putting green practicing for a playoff when he heard the thunderous roar that told him his day was done.
It was the fifth-straight year Els finished sixth or better at Augusta National.
The crowd at Harbour Town treated Els like he had won the Green Jacket. They cheered and clicked cameras as he walked down fairways and up to greens. 'Good playing, Ernie,' a woman called out after his opening pro-am tee shot. Els graciously turned, smiled and held the pose for a snapshot.
Davis Love III, a five-time MCI Heritage winner and defending champion, knows what Els is dealing with. In 1995, Love shot a final-round 66 than watched helplessly as friend Ben Crenshaw made birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 to win the Masters.
'I had a feeling that (Els) might've won,' Love said.
Instead, Mickelson cracked through the mantle that hung over him for years - and one Love ended with his 1997 PGA victory - as the tour's best player without a major.
Love talked with Els briefly since Sunday. 'He feels like, 'Hey, I played great down the stretch. I felt like I won the golf tournament when I walked off 18th green and somebody just came in played better than me and beat me,' ' Love said. 'I felt the same satisfaction in '95 that I got beat by a guy that played special golf.'
Els says he wrote Mickelson as much in a congratulatory letter. The two haven't spoken yet.
Els' luck at Harbour Town has been almost as star-crossed as at Augusta. He had three straight sub-70 rounds and with 12 holes left had a five-stroke lead before falling to champ Stewart Cink by that many in 2000.
Els was again ahead here in the final round a year ago. But he drove out of bounds on the 16th hole for a double bogey, then followed with closing bogeys on the 17th and 18th holes to tie for 10th place.
Els, 34, expects he'll have plenty more chances for success at Harbour Town - and at Augusta National.
'I don't feel all that terrible,' he said, 'and we move on.'
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    Korda happy to finally be free of jaw pain

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 2:43 am

    PHOENIX – Jessica Korda isn’t as surprised as everyone else that she is playing so well, so quickly, upon her return from a complex and painful offseason surgery.

    She is inspired finally getting to play without recurring headaches.

    “I’d been in pain for three years,” she said after posting a 4-under-par 68 Friday to move two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Korda had her upper jaw broken in three places and her low jaw broken in two places in December in a procedure that fixed the alignment of her jaw.

    Korda, 25, said the headaches caused by her overbite even affected her personality.

    “Affects your moods,” Korda said. “I think I was pretty snappy back then as well.”

    She was pretty pleased Friday to give herself a weekend chance at her sixth LPGA title, her second in her last three starts. She won the Honda LPGA Thailand three weeks ago in her first start after returning from surgery.

    “I'm much happier now,” Korda said. “Much calmer.”

    Even if she still can’t eat the things she would really like to eat. She’s still recuperating. She said the lower part of her face remains numb, and it’s painful to chew crunchy things.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “Chips are totally out of question,” Korda said.

    She can eat most things she likes, but she has to cut them into tiny pieces. She can’t wait to be able to eat a steak.

    “They broke my palate, so I can't feel anything, even heat,” Korda said. “So that's a bit difficult, because I can't feel any heat on my lip or palate. I don't know how hot things are going in until they hit my throat.”

    Korda has 27 screws in her skull holding the realignment together. She needed her family to feed her, bathe her and dress her while she recovered. The procedure changed the way she looks.

    While Korda’s ordeal and all that went into her recovery has helped fans relate to her, she said it’s the desire to move on that motivates her.

    “Because I was so drugged up, I don't remember a lot of it,” Korda said. “I try to forget a lot of it. I don't think of it like I went through a lot. I just think of it as I'm pain-free. So, yeah, people are like, `Oh, you're so brave, you overcame this and that.’ For me, I'm just going forward.”

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    Finally adapted to short putter, Martin near lead

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:54 am

    PHOENIX – Mo Martin loved her long putter.

    In fact, she named her “Mona.”

    For 10 years, Martin didn’t putt with anything else. She grew up with long putters, from the time she started playing when she was 5.

    While Martin won the Ricoh Women’s British Open in 2014, about nine months after giving up Mona for a short putter, she said it’s taken until today to feel totally comfortable with one.

    And that has her excited about this year.

    Well, that and having a healthy back again.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    “I've had a feeling that this year was going to be a good one,” Martin said. “My game is in a special place.”

    Martin was beaming after a 6-under-par 66 Friday moved her two shots off the lead at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    “Just a beautiful day,” Martin said. “I was able to play my game, make my putts.”

    Martin hit all 14 fairways in the second round, hit 15 greens in regulation and took just 27 putts. After struggling with nagging back pain last year, she’s pain free again.

    She’s happy to “just to get back to a place now where my ball striking is where it has been the last few years.”

    Martin, by the way, says Mona remains preserved in a special place, “a shrine” in her home.

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    Clanton rides hole-out eagle to lead at Founders

    By Associated PressMarch 17, 2018, 1:47 am

    PHOENIX - Cydney Clanton holed out from the fairway for eagle on the par-4 13th and closed with a birdie Friday to take the second-round lead in the Bank of Hope Founders Cup.

    Clanton shot a 5-under 67, playing the back nine at Desert Ridge in 5-under 31 to reach 9-under 135.

    Clanton's wedge on the 13th flew into the cup on the first bounce. She also birdied the par-5 11th and 15th and the par-4 18th. The 28-year-old former Auburn player is winless on the LPGA.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Ariya Jutanugarn, Marina Alex, Karine Icher and Mariajo Uribe were a stroke back on a calmer day after wind made scoring more difficult Thursday.

    Jessica Korda and Mo Martin were 7 under, and Michelle Wie topped the group at 6 under.

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    Ko's struggles continue with Founders MC

    By Randall MellMarch 17, 2018, 1:26 am

    PHOENIX – Lydia Ko loves the Bank of Hope Founders Cup and its celebration of the game’s pioneers, and that made missing the cut Friday sting a little more.

    With a 1-over-par 73 following Thursday’s 74, Ko missed the cut by four shots.

    After tying for 10th at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in her last start, Ko looked to be turning a corner in her quest to find her best form again, but she heads to next week’s Kia Classic with more work to do.

    “I just have to stay patient,” Ko said. “I just have to keep my head high.”

    It was just the fifth missed cut in Ko’s 120 career LPGA starts, but her fourth in her last 26 starts.

    Ko’s ball striking has been erratic this year, but her putting has been carrying her. She said her putting let her down Friday.

    “It seemed like I couldn’t hole a single putt,” she said. “When I missed greens, I just wasn’t getting up and down. When I got a birdie opportunity, I wasn’t able to hole it.”

    Ko came to Phoenix ranked 112th in driving distance, 121st in driving accuracy and 83rd in greens in regulation. She was sixth in putting average.

    Full-field scores from the Bank of Hope Founders Cup

    Cristie Kerr saw the struggle playing two rounds with Ko.

    “Her game’s not in good shape,” Kerr said. “She seemed a little lost.”

    Ko, 20, made those sweeping changes last year, starting 2017 with a new coach (Gary Gilchrist), a new caddie (Peter Godfrey) and new equipment (PXG). She made more changes at this year’s start, with another new coach (Ted Oh) and new caddie (Jonnie Scott).

    Ko doesn’t have to look further than Michelle Wie to see how a player’s game can totally turn around.

    “It always takes time to get used to things,” Ko said. “By the end of last year, I was playing solid. I’m hoping it won’t take as much time this year.”

    Ko had Oh fly to Asia to work with her in her two starts before the Founders Cup, with their work showing up in her play at the HSBC in Singapore. She said she would be talking to Oh again before heading to the Kia Classic next week and then the ANA Inspiration. She has won both of those events and will be looking to pull some good vibes from that.

    “This is my favorite stretch of events,” she said. “And I love the Founders Cup, how it celebrates all the generations that have walked through women’s golf. And I love the West Coast swing. Hopefully, I’ll make more putts next week.”

    Ko, whose run of 85 consecutive weeks at Rolex world No. 1 ended last summer, slipped to No. 12 this week.