More Than Just Winning for Els

By John HawkinsMarch 17, 2010, 1:29 am
It was the most significant round of golf played on the PGA Tour this year – a bogey-free 66 on a breezy Sunday afternoon at a premium-field event, which turned a tight ballgame into a runaway victory. More a test of inner-strength than a work of art, what made the performance so meaningful is that Ernie Els strode to Doral’s first tee with a share of the 54-hole lead and a lot more on the line than anyone behind him.
Ernie and Ben Els
Ernie Els and son Ben at Monday's autism charity event. (Getty Images)
More to gain, more to lose, definitely more to prove. Although Els’ career had been in steady decline since the fall of 2004, few people would dare to trace his freefall to the condition of his son, Ben, who was diagnosed with autism in 2007. Granted, Els underwent major knee surgery in the summer of  ’05, then made a hasty return to competitive golf that December, so more than a year passed between his comeback and an announcement regarding his son’s impairment.

Along the way, there were a couple of different management agencies, a change in equipment companies and several caddies, all while Els tried desperately to regain the form that made him one of the world’s top players for a decade. For a considerable portion of 2006, the Big Easy was actually taking advice from two sports psychologists. “I was almost chasing my own tail a little bit,” he acknowledged last Sunday. “I went about it the wrong way, wasn’t looking after the little things.”

His off-course business portfolio got thicker, but it wasn’t until Els was beaten by Phil Mickelson at the 2004 Masters, then lost a playoff to Todd Hamilton at the British Open three months later, that the comparisons became inevitable. The guy was turning into Greg Norman, consumed by competitive heartbreak, then chasing away the pain with a 10-gallon jug of distractions. Ben’s diagnosis shattered that broken heart into a million pieces, but both Ernie and his wife, Liezl, have recently said that their son’s autism has redefined their purpose in life.

The Els for Autism Foundation eventually will serve as 30,000 square feet of proof, the long-term plan calling for a south Florida facility capable of accommodating 300 children, but until last Sunday, there wasn’t substantial evidence that Els would ever be successful when it came to rebuilding his career. Having grown up with a severely retarded brother, I experienced the difficulties and emotional burden that can shape the existence of an entire family.

Sorrow. Guilt. Anger. I still tell anybody who will listen that my brother’s handicap impacted my own childhood as much as losing my father at the age of 9. The world seems much more understanding now, or maybe I’ve just grown up a little bit, but I cannot imagine a similar misfortune not affecting a world-class golfer, a three-time major champion already plagued by a certain amount of scar tissue accrued inside the ropes.

If you were born with more than an ounce of compassion, it changes you. Does that mean it alters the numbers on your scorecard? Only Els can really answer that, and though we haven’t spoken often in recent years, I got to know him well enough to say he’s far too kind and way too proud to blame the last five years of his golf life on the mental and domestic implications of his son’s condition. After winning last Sunday night, he admitted, “I didn’t think it was ever going to happen again.” They are words spoken by a man who has been forced to see the bigger picture, and at some point, came to terms with the hand fate has dealt him.

It is definitely not something Els would have said in 2004. There is a tendency among many of us to size up this type of victory by wondering whether it will improve the player’s chances of winning an upcoming major. The Masters is a tournament Els has loved forever and lost more than once, a title one might have suspected he’d win two or three times before all was said and done. His play at Augusta National in recent years has been awful, his three consecutive missed cuts reflective of a man trying too hard and knocking himself out of the hunt before the hunt had even started.

The Els I saw down the stretch Sunday afternoon looked more composed than the guy I saw in the prime of his career, when the Big Easy used to huff and puff his way through the pressure and visibly sigh after crucial moments. He looked emotionally unencumbered at Doral, and if he really thought he might not ever win again, he has no reason to feel that way now. With Tiger Woods either on the shelf or just coming off it, with Mickelson struggling to get all parts of his game working at the same time, Els has suddenly become both a thinking man’s favorite and a feelgood favorite, too.

“When I won [the Honda Classic] two years ago, I got all carried away with it and thought I was going to win at Augusta,” Els said last Sunday evening. “This time, I just want to take it all in.” Which isn’t to say he can’t get something out of it, too.

Rose weathering delayed Indonesian Masters

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 3:52 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose held a three-stroke lead after eight holes of the third round Saturday when play was suspended for the day due to bad weather at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose was 3-under on the day and led his playing partners Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Scott Vincent. The Englishman led both players by a stroke after the second round was completed Saturday morning due to weather delays on Friday.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters.

Getty Images

Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 11:27 pm

Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.

The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.

Getty Images

Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs

By Associated PressDecember 15, 2017, 2:04 pm

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.

Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.

The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.

Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.

Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 15, 2017, 1:00 pm

Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.

Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.

None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.

An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.

In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.

Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.

Playing with the pros

Tiger, DJ and Faxon

Article: Video, images from Tiger, DJ's round with Trump

Article: After DJ and Tiger, Trump plays golf with Jack

Rory faces criticism

Article: Rory: Round with Trump about respect for presidency

Article: Rory: Round with Trump not a 'political statement'

President at the Presidents Cup

Video: President Trump makes the rounds at Liberty National

Article: President Trump presents trophy to U.S. team

Article: Stricker: 'Great thrill' to get trophy from Trump

Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham

Article: Senator tweets Trump shot 73 in windy, wet conditions

Article: Graham offers details on Trump's round of 73

Cart on the green

Article: Trump appears to drive cart on Bedminster green

Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open

Article: Trump makes presidential history at Women's Open

Article: Trump supporters, protesters clash near Women's Open

Article: UltraViolet takes protest inside Trump National

Photo gallery: President Trump at the U.S. Women's Open

Trump golf properties


Article: Environmental group vandalizes Trump golf course

Article: Man accused of vandalizing four Trump courses


Article: Two Trump courses in Scotland losing millions

Article: Eric Trump denies Russia helped fund golf courses

Article: Trump company ordered to pay $5.77M in dues dispute

Reportedly fake TIME covers

Article: Trump clubs display fake Time magazine cover

Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story

Report: Trump's voter fraud claim tied to Langer

Langer: Trump 'apologized' for story mix-up

Pros comment on the president

Article: Players defend Trump at Senior PGA Championship

Article: Trump congratulates Daly; Daly congratulates Trump