Ernie Healthy Eyes Top Again
It was 1994 when he won the U.S. Open at the tender age of 24. And it was 97 when he won it again. He won the British in 2002. He almost won the Masters in 2004 ' remember that picture of him, forlorn and standing all alone on the putting green munching an apple - after Phil Mickelson birdied the 18th to send him down to bitter defeat?
Ernie is 37 now ' he had a birthday just last week. Hes only about six months older than Mickelson, so he should still be in the prime of his career. But youve heard precious little of him this year. Hes been demoted from the Big 3 or Big 4, whatever the media chose to call it. A devastating knee injury suffered when he ruptured the ACL ligament in July of last year meant that he wouldnt play for five months, and affected his swing for more than a year. He plays in the Chrysler Championship this week, almost a forgotten man.
Actually, it hasnt been that bad of a year, if were talking the average player here. Hes finished in the top 10 three times in the U.S. without missing a cut. On the European Tour, he finished third in the British Open, second in Dubai, and won in South Africa. But ' no one refers to him as one of the best in the world anymore.
Is that a mistake? Well, it could be. Ernie is again making noises like he is about to win.
Lets see, he finished fifth in the WCG-American Express less than a month ago, then finished fifth in the Dunhill Links in Scotland in his last outing. When he returns to the United States after being gone for two months, its difficult to tell that hes lost too much.
Els isnt promising anything dramatic. Ive just got to build for next year, basically, he says. But he could make some real noise this week and next, when he will probably play in the Tour Championship (he currently stands 30th on the U.S. money list and the top 30 make the field.)
Ernie doesnt blame his downturn on his injury unless hes specifically asked. But its glaringly obvious theres been something amiss throughout the year. For a long time, he twitched when he put pressure on the knee. He has slumped to being just 60th in driving distance, losing more than eight yards of his figure of last year.
I felt the knee for a long time, Els said, but what's the use of me saying it's not good? It's not going to do me any good; it's not going to do anybody any good. So you don't want to say how terrible things are.
Ernie has worked diligently with David Leadbetter and at home near London to get his swing back, fighting through the bad habits he picked up while subconsciously favoring the knee. But he says hes found something.
I worked with a good friend of mine a couple of weeks ago, he said at the Dunhill three weeks ago, and he found something in the swing. I went with it last week (in the American Express) and it went great.
Actually, though, Els turned the corner at the U.S. Open in June, finally feeling stabilized enough that he could really put pressure on the knee. There he finished T-26, but he felt no pangs in swinging the club. It was simply a process of working through the bad habits he had picked up. And since then, Ernie has steadily improved.
Lead (Leadbetter) - he said because of the knee, I don't want to put all my weight onto the knee, on the downswing, said Els. I didn't quite complete my backswing because I was just subconsciously, I think I was just trying to stay away from the knee. And doing that got me into those situations, where I got into that classic stuck position. And from there I hit it either right or left.
You can't do that in a golf swing - you've got to go left. You can't hit the golf ball from the right side. I think it had a little bit to do with this little slump I'm in. And as the knee feels better I can get into better positions in my swing, and I think it's now only a matter of time before things are going to turn around.
Strangely enough, Ernies putting suffered during his absence. He currently stands way down in the No. 82 position on tour in that category, after being as high as ninth only two years ago. But that aspect of his game is coming around, too. At last, he can see some real positives throughout.
It's been pretty tough, he confesses. It's been more than a year now, and I've had a rough time with the game and the injuries. But I feel physically fine. There's really no problem. At the moment that's good. I've done a lot of hard work physically on that and on my golf game. But it's been a tough 12 months, to be honest with you.
But through it all, his love of the game hasnt diminished one iota.
Golf is still my life, he says. That is the core of my life. And without golf I couldn't see myself sitting in an office right now and doing those other things that we are busy with. I've got a good ten years to do what I've always wanted to do. I'm really just 100 percent playing golf right now.
Fleetwood rallies to defend Abu Dhabi title
The 2018 European Tour season has begun just as the 2017 one ended: with Tommy Fleetwood's name atop the standings.
Facing the most difficult conditions of the week, Fleetwood charged down the stretch to shoot a 7-under 65 in the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, good enough for a two-shot win and a successful title defense.
Abu Dhabi was the start of Fleetwood's resurgence a year ago, the first of two European Tour victories en route to the season-long Race to Dubai title. This time around the Englishman started the final round two shots off the lead but rallied with six birdies over his final nine holes to reclaim the trophy.
Fleetwood was five shots behind countryman Ross Fisher when he made the turn, but he birdied the par-5 10th and then added four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 12-16. The decisive shot came on the final hole, when his pitch from the left rough nestled within a few feet of the hole for a closing birdie.
Fleetwood's 22-under total left him two shots ahead of Fisher and four shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Matthew Fitzpatrick. After entering the week ranked No. 18, Fleetwood is expected to move to at least No. 12 in the world when the new rankings are published.
Garcia cruises to five-shot win in Singapore
SINGAPORE - Sergio Garcia played 27 holes on the last day without dropping a shot to win the Singapore Open by five strokes Sunday in an ominous display of his newfound self-belief as he prepares to defend his Masters title.
Still brimming with confidence after claiming his first major title at Augusta National last year, Garcia started his new season with a runaway victory at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing at 14-under 270.
Returning to the course just after dawn to complete his third round after play was suspended on Saturday because of lightning strikes, Garcia finished his last nine holes in 4 under for a round of 66 to take a one-shot lead into the final round.
With organizers desperate to avert the constant threat of more bad weather and finish the tournament on time, Garcia promptly returned to the first tee shortly after and fired a flawless 3-under 68, cruising to victory with 10 straight pars as his rivals floundered in the stifling humidity.
''It may have looked easy, but it wasn't easy. You still have to hit a lot of good shots out there,'' Garcia said. ''It's always great to start with a win, to do it here at this golf course against a good field in Asia on conditions that weren't easy. Hopefully I can ride on this momentum.''
Garcia's closest rivals at the end were Japan's Satoshi Kodaira (71) and South African Shaun Norris (70). Both birdied the last hole to share second spot but neither was ever close enough on the last day to challenge the leader.
''I could not reach Sergio. I was thinking, 12 or 13 under for the win, but he went beyond that,'' Kodaira said.
Jazz Janewattananond (71) and his fellow Thai Danthai Bonnma (73) finished equal fourth at 8 under, earning themselves a spot in this year's British Open, while American Sean Crocker, who was given an invitation to the event after turning pro late last year, also won a place at Carnoustie by finishing in a tie for sixth.
Garcia made just three bogeys in 72 holes and his victory provided the 38-year-old with the 33rd title of his professional career and his sixth on the Asian Tour.
He has also won three titles in the last 12 months, including the Masters, and his game looks to be in better shape now than it was a year ago.
He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for Augusta National because of the steamy conditions and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament, which is regularly stopped because of inclement weather.
Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore a year ago, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.
"I'm extremely happy with how the week went. It was a tough day and a tough week, with the stopping and going. Fortunately, the weather held on. Still, it was hard to play 27 holes under this heat and I can't wait to get a cold shower,'' Garcia said. ''I came with some good confidence and wishing that I will play well. I hit the ball solid the whole week and didn't miss many shots.''
Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.
After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.
It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.
Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.
Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.
Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.
Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.
“I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”
The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.
“The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”
Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.