Els Searching for Major Turnaround

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
Ernie Els sat before the media in January and was posed the same question most every big name player receives at the season-opening Mercedes Championships:
 
Whats the minimum you could do this year to make it a successful year in your own mind?
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els hopes to put behind him his recent major disappointments at St. Andrews.
Part of Els response: I would love to at least win a major this year. It sounds very cocky but that's always my mindset.
 
Els is 0-for-2 in that department thus far in 2005. Technically, that puts him in a similar position to that of a year ago as he prepares for the Open Championship. But unlike last year, when he had a chance to win each of the first two majors ' and all four, for that matter, he has yet to contend in any this year.
 
Els tied for 47th at Augusta and then tied for 15th at Pinehurst; finishing 22 and nine strokes, respectively, behind the winners. He has yet to break par in any of his eight major rounds in 05.
 
Hes winless in the majors this season and hes winless on the PGA Tour. Needless to say, Els is not overly pleased with his results, despite the fact that he has three wins on the European Tour.
 
Theres still time, he said about turning his season into what he deems a successful campaign.
 
Time, however, is slipping. And there is more sand in the bottom of the hourglass than in the top.
 
For a man of Els professional stature, success is measured in victories ' particularly in the majors. Els has three major triumphs, but none since the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield.
 
Last year was particularly cruel, as he finished runner-up to Mickelson by a stroke at the Masters; shot 80 from the final group, in the final round of the U.S. Open to tie for ninth; lost to Todd Hamilton in a playoff at the Open Championship; and bogeyed the 72nd hole to miss out on a playoff at the PGA Championship.
 
As much as those still hurt and as frustrated as he might be, Els is well aware that one good week, four great rounds can alter his disposition.
 
And with his track record in the Open, combined with his affection for the Old Course at St. Andrews, Els is among the top contenders to again claim the claret jug.
 
St. Andrews is almost like a home course for me. I've played it every year since 1992. So I know it as good as anybody, said Els.
 
But he is not the favorite.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Tiger Woods
Each of the last two Open Championships has produced a shocking winner. And eight of the last 10 Open winners have been American. So you may want to pick someone like Ted Purdy as your favorite. But well stick with Tiger. While Americans have had recent success at St. Andrews, having won four of the last six Opens staged there, the dark horse has rarely finished first. Nine of the last 11 winners at St. Andrews already had a major victory to their credit. The venerable venue has hosted 26 Opens and has produced champions like Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Peter Thomson, Bobby Locke, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo. And, of course, that Woods fellow.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is looking to complete the career Grand Slam for the second time.
Tiger won the most recent Old Course Open in 2000, establishing a major record winning score of 19 under. He played in the J.P. McManus Pro-Am in Ireland last Monday and Tuesday, and has been spending a little time fishing with pals on that side of the Atlantic and a lot of time gearing up his game. Having won the Masters and finished runner-up at the U.S. Open, he cant win the single season Grand Slam. But a win this week and he would join Nicklaus as the only men to win every major at least twice.
 
Ernie Els
Not since Greg Norman has there been a player more star-crossed in the majors than Els. He desperately wants to win the career Grand Slam, but he certainly wouldnt mind adding a second British Open title to go along with his two U.S. Open trophies. Els is a little weary at the moment, due to his extensive travels, which include an unexpected return to South Africa two weeks ago for the death of his grandfather. But, despite an 11th-place showing at the Barclays Scottish Open, he enters this championship optimistic. In addition to his infatuation for St. Andrews, he is also quite fond of his new Titleist driver, which he put in play last week.
 
Padraig Harrington
*Editor's note: Harrington pulled out on Tuesday due to the death of his father.
Harrington may well be playing the best golf of anyone leading into the seasons third major. Three weeks ago, he drained a 65-foot eagle putt to win the Barclays Classic, his second PGA Tour title of the year. He then won, by six strokes, last weeks J.P. McManus Pro-Am, a two-day event that featured the likes of Woods, Els, U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, Davis Love III, and just about every notable European player. He has a pair of top-5 finishes in the Open Championship, and tied for 20th in 2000.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh can claim the third leg of the career Grand Slam with a win this week. He has three PGA Tour victories this season, but none in his last six starts. That might not seem like a long stretch, but Singh has come to spoil us over the last three years. Singh has had moderate success in this event. He has missed only two cuts in 16 career starts, but also has only two top-10s. One of those top-10s, however, came here in 1995. He tied for second in 2003, behind champion Ben Curtis.
 
Phil Mickelson
There was a time ' not too long ago ' that Mickelson would never have been considered among the favorites to win this particular major. But times have changed. And so, too, has Mickelsons major preparation. After failing to crack the top-10 in his first 11 Open appearances, he finished solo third a year ago at Royal Troon. His previous best finish was a tie for 11th, which happened to come at St. Andrews in 2000. He continued his major routine, playing the Old Course last Monday and Tuesday prior to competing in the Scottish Open.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more to keep an eye on
 
*Michael Campbell, who will be playing his first official event since winning the U.S. Open. Campbell tied Els and Woods for sixth place at the J.P. McManus Pro-Am. He first made a name for himself at this event and at this venue in 95, when he held the 54-hole lead, but then shot 76 on Sunday to miss out on the John Daly-Costantino Rocca playoff by a stroke.
 
*Retief Goosen, who is looking to bounce back from a woeful closing performance at Pinehurst. In search of his second straight U.S. Open title, Goosen shot 81 in the final round to blow a three-shot lead and finish tied for 11th. He has three consecutive top-10 finishes in this event.
 
*Davis Love III, who has said the Open Championship is the one major that he has always wanted to win. Love hasnt won an event since 2003, but he seems to be rounding into form. He played better than anyone at Pinehurst over the last three rounds. He just needs to find a way to get off to a good start at St. Andrews. He has a pair of top-5s in his last two Open starts.
 
*Jack Nicklaus, who will be making his final appearance in this championship. Nicklaus has competed in 37 Opens. He won three times, including twice at St. Andrews (1970, 78). Most amazingly, he never finished worse than tied for sixth from 1966-80.
 
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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    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.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    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.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    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.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    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.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.