New Approach to Chasing Tiger

By Golf Channel NewsroomApril 9, 2003, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) -- It's hard to imagine Ernie Els getting worked up about anything. Hey, he's the Big Easy, the guy with the sleepy eyes, the comfortable grin, the soothing demeanor.
Truth is, the South African has been tormented by his pursuit of Tiger Woods, allowing it to affect every aspect of his game.
Els jokes about the 'little guy' on his shoulder, the demon who tells him to go for shots that have little chance of working, who keeps whispering 'Tiger, Tiger, Tiger' in his ear.
'If you start playing Tiger on Thursday from the first tee, that's the wrong way to go about it,' said Els, expected to be one of Woods' main challengers at the Masters after taking two weeks off to heal a sore wrist. 'You're going to beat yourself up and not play your normal game.'
A year ago at Augusta National, Els let his preoccupation with Woods ruin any chance of winning the tournament.
Woods was leading on Sunday when Els went to No. 13, hoping to take a big chunk out of the deficit with an eagle on the par-5 hole. He pulled out a 3-wood and tried to steer his tee shot around trees hugging the left side of the dogleg.
Instead, Els yanked the ball into the woods. To make things worse, he tried two impossible shots from the foliage, putting them both in Rae's Creek. He wound up taking a triple-bogey 8.
'I was trying to really get it around the corner and have a shot at eagle and all that stuff,' Els said. 'But after the tee shot, I was dead. And then I just made mistake after mistake. After that first mistake, I was trying to rectify it as quickly as I could. Subsequently, I just got myself deeper in a hole.'
It doesn't take a psychology degree and a couch to figure out why he is so preoccupied with Woods.
At age 24, Els won the first of two U.S. Open titles. He was the rising star in the world of golf: imposing in size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds), dashing in looks and immensely talented.
He never really got a chance to enjoy his reign. In 1997, Woods signaled the start of a new era with a 12-stroke victory at the Masters. Since then, this sport has been Tiger's World - everyone else just has a tee time.
Over the years, Els has finished second to Woods in six tournaments around the world, more than anyone else. Two of those came in 2000, when Woods romped to record-breaking victories at the U.S. Open and British Open and went on to win four straight majors, the first player to do that in the modern era. Els wondered if he would ever get another chance.
'My focus wasn't channeled in the right direction,' he said. 'It was more channeled toward players instead of the golf course and the shots that I have to play.'
Els brought in famed coach David Leadbetter to work on his swing and, just as important, Belgian psychologist Jos Vanstiphout to work on his psyche.
'The first thing I told him was to forget about Tiger,' Vanstiphout said. 'Tiger wasn't the issue. He was the issue. Instead of changing the person, you have to change the way the person thinks.'
So far this year, the results are evident.
While Woods was recovering from knee surgery, Els became the first player in 14 years to win the first two PGA Tour events of the season. He won twice more against good fields in Australia.
Then came a reality check. Els and Woods went mano-a-mano at Bay Hill in the third round. It wasn't really a fair fight - Els had the sore wrist, Woods had a four-shot lead - but the world's best player solidified his spot by finishing the day with a 10-stroke lead. By the end of the next day, Woods was 19 shots ahead.
Els, it seems, is still a work in progress.
'Whenever Tiger gets into a tournament, pow!' Vanstiphout said. 'There's five times more press, more security, more attention. Ernie has got to learn to live with it, and he will.'
Make no mistake, though: Els is learning.
With his career threatening to drift off course last summer, he came through with his third major victory at the British Open. Woods wasn't a factor, shooting a wind-swept 81 on Saturday, but Els still had to overcome his mental demons.
He had a big lead on the back nine until a double-bogey on 16 left him one stroke behind. It's not farfetched to say Els was at a crossroads.
He had a remarkable birdie at 17, then parred the final hole of regulation to force a four-man playoff. After four extra holes, only Els and Thomas Levet were left. Els parred the next hole to claim the Claret Jug.
'The British was definitely the start of maybe the resurgence of my golf game,' Els said. 'If I didn't get through that tournament, if I didn't win that tournament, I think I would have been a different player right now.'
Vanstiphout puts it another way.
'It would not have been the end of him,' the psychologist said. 'It would have bloody killed him, though.'
Related Links:
  • 2003 Masters Tournament Mini-Site
  • Tournament Coverage
  • The Augusta National Membership Debate: A Chronology
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  • Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Cameron Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Jason Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Jordan Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.

    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday. 

    Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

    Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

    Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

    The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

    ''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

    Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."