Els wins again as British Open defense nears

By Jason SobelJune 24, 2013, 12:50 pm

I spent the better part of an afternoon at a loss to once again describe Ernie Els. His carefree brilliance, the ease at which he goes about his business, his longevity in remaining among the world’s best for so many years. Nothing new here, really.

I mean, golf writers have been spending the last two decades waxing poetic about the Big Easy’s admirable traits, so on the heels of his latest victory at the BMW International Open, what sweeping generalizations can we make? That he has a pretty swing? That he’s capable of winning anywhere, anytime? Come on. We knew all this already. We’ve known it forever.

It wasn’t until the final line of “Thunder Road” bounced from speakers across the room – ”We’re pulling out of here to win…” – transferring from what had been barely noticeable background noise to an idea invading this blank slate, that it hit me.

Ernie Els is like the Bruce Springsteen of golf.

Think about it: Each guy has been cranking out successful work for longer than most of his peers. Each is beloved in his native land, but nearly equally adored halfway around the world. Each – and this is something very different than the last sentence – has few detractors, people who don’t care for him or what he does professionally.

And each is almost taken for granted in the way he continuously improves – or at least treads water, which in both cases means remaining near the top.

Photos: Els' career through the years

Els by the numbers

I’ll quit the analogy while I’m ahead – and no, I don’t know if this also means Vijay Singh is Mick Jagger (they both tend to strut and have a guitar-sized chip on their shoulders?) or Phil Mickelson is Jon Bon Jovi (you either love the guy or love to hate him?). But it should stand as a nice little coincidence that just as reports circulate that Springsteen is preparing to get back into the studio for a new album, Els is similarly preparing for an Open Championship that is earmarked with his storylines all over its surface.

There’s the fact that Els won at Muirfield the last time an Open was held there. Back in 2002, he outlasted three others in a playoff to claim his third career major championship title. At the time, he was 32, right in the prime of a burgeoning Hall of Fame career, and there was every reason to believe that his third major was a stepping stone to even more.

By the time he won last year’s Open, Els actually was a Hall of Fame member, which in itself suggests that he would be past that prime of a decade earlier. Maybe he was, but the back nine of Els’ career is apparently still better than the front side of so many others. He won at Royal Lytham when Adam Scott imploded in grand fashion; now he enters next month’s edition of the event as defending champion and one of the odds-on favorites to win it again.

That’s because at 43, he’s still capable of carefree brilliance, even if they now come in short, poignant bursts rather than prolonged bouts of consistency. Els’ victory on Sunday in Germany was the 68th professional win of his career. He’s won everywhere from Kapalua to Congressional, from Dubai to Durban, and yet each time he’s won in the last few years, there’s a little bit more of a celebration, just in case this time is the last time. Not that there’s any evidence to show it would be. In fact, quite the contrary – prior to winning this past week, he had finished in a share of fourth place at the U.S. Open, a final-round 1-under 69 leaving him just a few strokes shy of giving a serious run at a fifth career major.

It could happen at Muirfield, the biggest storyline in a tourney chock full of those surrounding him.

After being informed that he is now the oldest player to win the BMW, Els responded, “I'm really young, believe me. I'm a very young 43-year-old. There's no younger 43-year-old than me, I promise you.”

It’s difficult to think of Els as a young 43-year-old. He’s the Gary Player of this generation, logging more miles across more continents than any of his contemporaries. Big deal, you might say. Comfy private jets with their comfy beds and comfort food are hardly enough to weather a guy, you might contend.

Sure, he’s not exactly taking Greyhound buses and sleeping in a Motel 6 each week, but global travel of even the most lavish kind is enough to take a toll. This past week he went from Merion to Munich, enough to leave most people jetlagged and bleary-eyed, but just another cross-continent journey for a guy who’s been doing this for longer than he wasn’t.

“[You] get to my age, to get a win, it's a wonderful feeling,” he said afterward. “Hopefully it gives me the confidence that I needed. Two more majors left, I've played quite well the last two, but I need a bit of a spark in the next two. So hopefully this will help. It definitely will.”

For two decades, we’ve known all about Els’ pretty swing, globetrotting schedule and ability to win anywhere, anytime. What we’re learning now is that none of it is eroding now that he’s a self-proclaimed “young 43-year-old.” Based on his return to Muirfield and last year’s win, he was already going to be one of the main stories entering the year’s third major. Based on his recent play, he may be the main story once it’s over, too.

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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.