Ernie Els British Open Press Conference Transcript
ERNIE ELS: The course has changed a little bit. The greens have changed a little bit, I would say. They're firmer and getting a little bit more speed in them, the fairways are in great shape, as you can see the golf course is very green, but this starting -- you're starting to see a little bit of run on the fairways and especially on the greens. If that happens, if it gets any firmer, it's going to be tougher to keep it on the fairways. The rough is very, very thick. If you hit any kind of a loose shot, you're going to be penalized at least one shot. You have to get very lucky to get a lie and advance to the green. But it's not overly long, so you've got opportunity to use 3 woods or 2 irons to keep it in the fairways, and you're going to come in with longer clubs, but it's a very fair golf course.
Q. If it gets any faster, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it will make scoring a little bit more difficult. But the true links will come out then. The running shots, you know, the low punch shots, stuff like that, the real links golf will come out if it gets faster and firmer, but I think it will take at least another week of this kind of weather to really make it brown. I think we'll see fairways that are pretty generous this week.
Q. Do you like brown golf or green golf?
ERNIE ELS: Well, I think the way it's set up, I don't mind it brown then, there's not so much rough yet, when it is brown, yet it can be difficult, so I prefer it a little more green.
Q. You've done well here in the past. Do you enjoy links golf in general. Does that suit your game?
ERNIE ELS: I don't know if it suits my game. I enjoy playing that kind of golf. I enjoy playing The Open Championship, and I've had a pretty good time the last 10 years playing in this tournament. I haven't won it, but I've had good times playing this tournament. We don't get an opportunity to play links courses that often anymore, so when we do, I like to grab it and play. It's decent stuff. It's different from the golf we normally play in the states or even I know the European Tour now, it's target golf all the time, so you go back to your roots here kind of.
Q. What do you have to do to win, you personally?
ERNIE ELS: I have to play a lot better. I haven't played that good the past couple of weeks. I've worked on it a little bit playing out there today, but shots aren't coming out the way I'm visualizing at the moment, so it's a little difficult, but obviously if I get my game together, I've got to keep it there. It's a strong field, a lot of players are coming here with great form, especially Tiger and Phil Mickelson. It's a four-day event, you have to try to hang tough. I would like to see my game a little bit better by Thursday.
Q. You mentioned him first, so I will now. Specifically the news after the U.S. Open was criticism of specifically you and Phil and Duval, from the older generation saying you haven't provided enough of a challenge, I saw you reacts to it once, but now time has past and on the verge of another major, does that burn inside of you when you get ready to tee it up on Thursday?
ERNIE ELS: Let me put it this way. When I feel I play well, when I'm playing well, I feel I have a chance to win. Obviously, that hasn't happened. When I've played well, Tiger still has beaten me. What do you do? You have to play better. I felt my game was really on the first quarter of the year, the first four or five months, I really played well, and I did win a couple of times. I actually won when Tiger was in the field, so that counts even more in my book.
Since The Masters, I haven't really gotten back to my best form so it has been difficult for myself to challenge any kind of a field for quite a few weeks now, so when those comments were made, I think it was made just after the U.S. Open, and I reacted to it, because I felt it was unfairly -- you know, how can I say, unfairly towards myself and some other players. I still stand by it. I work hard at my game. I work hard at everything in my game. When I've had it going, I still got beat. Maybe I'm not good enough then, who knows. I think it's unfair the way other people from the outside just criticize you because you don't beat the guy.
Q. Have you talked to Gary since then? I know you guys are fairly close.
ERNIE ELS: No, I haven't spoken to Gary or anybody really.
Q. Why do you think there is this fascination with comparing different generations not just in golf --
ERNIE ELS: Any support is like that, isn't it? If you look at the NBA you're going to compare Bryant with Jordan; Shaq with some other great players. Baseball is the same, soccer is the same, Rugby is the same. Any sport.
ERNIE ELS: When you're done playing, you become a commentator and it's easy to criticize people. I just reacted to that. I think I might be the same. Who knows when I retire. When I played, I was this good, and this guy is not good because he's not doing some things right. It's easy to say that, I guess.
Q. Ernie, do you think that Trevino could have won six majors today or Watson?
ERNIE ELS: They were great players, Lee Trevino had a great golf swing, best hands in the business. Tom Watson, just one of the best ball-strikers, great desire to play the game, same with Gary Player, but we play a different game out there nowadays. I mean, you've seen it. You guys have been around here long enough. You've seen how the game has changed. Equipment has changed, but also the players. You don't see guys with fat bellies out there anymore. Guys are fit and strong and it's a different game. I mean, those great players probably would have been as good today, but would they have beaten Tiger? There is a big question mark there.
Q. Do you think the setup of this course widens the number of potential winners as opposed to Bethpage?
ERNIE ELS: Yes, I think this is a lot wider open than Bethpage. Bethpage, I thought, was a great golf course, it was one of the best I've ever seen. The setup was a little difficult, but again, if you were on your game, I think you could have had a good week there, Phil Mickelson showed that. He played with great heart and it seemed like he hit the ball very well, and he was right in there, and some other players, too. This golf course is a lot shorter, but into the wind, some of the holes are very difficult.
No. 1 is going to be one of the most difficult holes. It's a 450 into-the-wind-hole, and 14 comes to mind, 15 comes to mind. And then No. 9 is going to be a very tough Par 5. And No. 10 is a good Par 4.
There's a bunch of holes that are difficult in the morning, but you've got a lot of very short par four's downwind where I feel you have a lot more opportunities for birdies than you ever had at Bethpage. At Bethpage there were almost no birdie holes, it seemed like. I think this will be -- saying again, it's Monday, Thursday the tournament starts, I feel there will be a lot more players in this one come Sunday.
Q. Do you think the shorter the course, the more it opens it up to the rest of the field?
ERNIE ELS: Definitely. Especially the way they set up major championship golf courses, they're all very narrow, the rough is up that you can't believe at some places. The shorter the course, more people can be in it. A long golf course like Bethpage, you have to be a long hitter to do anything.
Nick Price probably played as good as Tiger did, but he didn't have the game obviously as Tiger. He's 270, 275 driver, and he really had no chance of winning the tournament, but he played great to finish fifth.
Q. Do you think the U.S. Majors will ever figure that out and start going back to courses that are obsolete because they're too short?
ERNIE ELS: I spoke to a guy last night who is a member at Oakmont, and he said they changed Oakmont unbelievably a lot. They say you can't really see the changes, but the changes are there. It's probably about 7,200 now, and it's a big change from 1994, so I think a lot of courses are changing.
Q. It sounds like you don't need to if you want to open up the competition....
ERNIE ELS: This is different. You have the weather here to help you. If there's a dead calm, 24 in the pocket (sic) wouldn't you, (inaudible) because you don't need a driver, ever, if it's dead calm. You play in the states, you play a short course, shorter than 7,000 yards, with no wind, I mean, you can shoot anything there. You don't need a driver ever on the golf course like that, so the weather plays a big part on links golf courses.
Q. He talked about the state of your game right now and you started the season very well. What has happened in the last month or so?
ERNIE ELS: I don't know if I'm a little tired of it or what it is, I'm just not -- I just can't get it together at the moment. I had two weeks off after the Hartford tournament and I came to London and spent some nice time with the family and practiced and -- but it's not just quite there. My swing is not tight enough, I feel. The ball position is out a little here and there, a couple of things, and it compounds to quite a problem at times.
ERNIE ELS: I tried to get it together last week and it didn't quite work, but hopefully by Thursday I'll get something going.
Q. After you won Congressional, the second major, did you have a number in mind like I can win, six, eight, ten, and has that number changed over the last five years?
ERNIE ELS: Yes. After Congressionally I felt very comfortable I would win the Grand Slam and win all four at least once, and it's still a goal of mine, but it's changed a little bit now. I think before '97, it was looking pretty good because Tiger wasn't around then and he just came on the scene, really. It seems now when you play a major tournament, you really play the golf course, and you play Tiger. It seems like he's there every time and he just knows -- he's such a veteran now playing major championships that even if he's not playing very well, he's still going to be there, and if he's only 5 behind, there's always the feeling he can get something going on the Sunday.
Yeah, it's definitely changed. I feel that -- I'm 32, 33 in October, so I've still got a good seven years ahead of me, but it's going to be a lot more difficult than I thought at first.
Q. How do you play Tiger? What does that mean?
ERNIE ELS: Well, it's just, you know, you can beat the field, but it doesn't mean you're going to beat Tiger. He stands -- you know, you can agree with me, he's going for the Grand Slam, you know he's going to be in contention this week, so you can beat the field by a couple of shots, but you might not beat Tiger at the end of the day.
Q. Does that change the way you actually play?
ERNIE ELS: It doesn't really change anything you do. I'm just saying, you know, that you might beat the field and he's shown that. He won the Open by eight shots and the U.S. Open, he won by 12 shots so I could have beaten the field that week, but I still wouldn't have won the tournament.
Q. (Inaudible) ?
ERNIE ELS: In a way, yes. Look at Duval this year. He had an eight-shot lead going into the final round, and although I didn't play very well the last day, I won by two, I think, over Tiger and I think by six the rest of the field. That's the kind of thing that can happen in a golf tournament.
Q. Having said that, do you think there is a lack of appreciation then for the level of play you're on and Mickelson and Garcia and others?
ERNIE ELS: Yes. That was my point when I reacted a couple of weeks ago. You know, if it wasn't for one guy, I think Mickelson would have had two or three by now, and I think David would have probably won The Masters a couple of times, and who knows maybe I could have won four or five, so there you go. I think this guy is just a totally different talent than the world has ever seen. In a way, I'm kind of glad I'm playing this year and in another way I'm unhappy I'm playing this year.
Q. So maybe, quote, the older generation ought to be glad they were born when they were?
ERNIE ELS: I think so.
Q. Nick Faldo was in here hoping maybe a woman might get into Tiger's way. Do you want to introduce to him to somebody?
ERNIE ELS: You might want to speak to Jesper about that one. He's probably got to settle down and get married and have some kids (laughs).
Q. Do you want to loan him some of your kids in the meantime?
ERNIE ELS: No. That's the best thing that's ever happened to me.
STEWART McDOUGAL: Ernie, thank you very much.
The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros
Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.
Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.
I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.
One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.
So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?
You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?
Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?
I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.
This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.
Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:
Once we give 'em a lesson, we are faced with:— Trackman Maestro (@TrackmanMaestro) January 16, 2018
A. Will they do what we asked them to do
B. Can they do what we asked them to do
C. Will they put in the practice time
D. The fact that golf is a hard game
We face multiple barriers as golf instructors.
On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.
The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:
“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”
Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.
Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.
Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.
Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field
Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.
Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.
In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.
Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.
After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth.
Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.
Even on 'off' day, Rahm shoots 67 at CareerBuilder
Jon Rahm didn’t strike the ball as purely Friday as he did during his opening round at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
He still managed a 5-under 67 that put him just one shot off the lead heading into the weekend.
“I expected myself to go to the range (this morning) and keep flushing everything like I did yesterday,” said Rahm, who shot a career-low 62 at La Quinta on Thursday. “Everything was just a little bit off. It was just one of those days.”
After going bogey-free on Thursday, Rahm mixed four birdies and two bogeys over his opening six holes. He managed to settle down around the turn, then made two birdies on his final three holes to move within one shot of Andrew Landry (65).
Rahm has missed only five greens through two rounds and sits at 15-under 129.
The 23-year-old Spaniard won in Dubai to end the year and opened 2018 with a runner-up finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He needs a top-6 finish or better this week to supplant Jordan Spieth as the No. 2 player in the world.
Landry stays hot, leads desert shootout at CareerBuilder
LA QUINTA, Calif. –
Andrew Landry topped the crowded CareerBuilder Challenge leaderboard after another low-scoring day in the sunny Coachella Valley.
Landry shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday on PGA West's Jack Nicklaus Tournament Course to reach 16 under. He opened with a 63 on Thursday at La Quinta Country Club.
''Wind was down again,'' Landry said. ''It's like a dome out here.''
Jon Rahm, the first-round leader after a 62 at La Quinta, was a stroke back. He had two early bogeys in a 67 on the Nicklaus layout.
''It's tough to come back because I feel like I expected myself to go to the range and keep just flushing everything like I did yesterday,'' Rahm said. ''Everything was just a little bit off.''
Jason Kokrak was 14 under after a 67 at Nicklaus. Two-time major champion Zach Johnson was 13 under along with Michael Kim and Martin Piller. Johnson had a 64 at Nicklaus.
Landry, Rahm, Kokrak and Johnson will finish the rotation Saturday at PGA West's Stadium Course, also the site of the final round.
''You need to hit it a lot more accurate off the tee because being in the fairway is a lot more important,'' Rahm said about the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, a layout the former Arizona State player likened to the Dye-designed Karsten course on the school's campus. ''With the small greens, you have water in play. You need to be more precise. Clearly the hardest golf course.''
Landry pointed to the Saturday forecast.
''I think the wind's supposed to be up like 10 to 20 mph or something, so I know that golf course can get a little mean,'' Landry said. ''Especially, those last three or four holes.''
The 30-year-old former Arkansas player had five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine. After winning his second Web.com Tour title last year, he had two top-10 finishes in October and November at the start the PGA Tour season.
''We're in a good spot right now,'' Landry said. ''I played two good rounds of golf, bogey-free both times, and it's just nice to be able to hit a lot of good quality shots and get rewarded when you're making good putts.''
Rahm had four birdies and the two bogeys on his first six holes. He short-sided himself in the left bunker on the par-3 12th for his first bogey of the week and three-putted the par-4 14th – pulling a 3-footer and loudly asking ''What?'' – to drop another stroke.
''A couple of those bad swings cost me,'' Rahm said.
The top-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world, Rahm made his first par of the day on the par-4 16th and followed with five more before birdieing the par-5 fourth. The 23-year-old Spaniard also birdied the par-5 seventh and par-3 eighth.
''I had close birdie putts over the last four holes and made two of them, so I think that kind of clicked,'' said Rahm, set to defend his title next week at Torrey Pines.
He has played the par 5s in 9 under with an eagle and seven birdies.
Johnson has taken a relaxed approach to the week, cutting his practice to two nine-hole rounds on the Stadium Course.
''I'm not saying that's why I'm playing well, but I took it really chill and the golf courses haven't changed,'' Johnson said. ''La Quinta's still really pure, right out in front of you, as is the Nicklaus.''
Playing partner Phil Mickelson followed his opening 70 at La Quinta with a 68 at Nicklaus to get to 6 under. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer is playing his first tournament of since late October.
''The scores obviously aren't what I want, but it's pretty close and I feel good about my game,'' Mickelson said. ''I feel like this is a great place to start the year and build a foundation for my game. It's easy to identify the strengths and weaknesses. My iron play has been poor relative to the standards that I have. My driving has been above average.''
Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on a sponsor exemption, had a 70 at Nicklaus to match Mickelson at 6 under. The Southern California recruit is playing his first PGA Tour event. He tied for 65th in the Australian Open in November in his first start in a professional tournament.