Els Returns to Defend at Memorial

By Mercer BaggsMay 31, 2005, 4:00 pm
Ernie Els is back in the U.S. And there is no place he would rather be. Except maybe Qatar or Dubai or China or Australia or any other international site where he seems to prove victorious over and over and over again.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els is in search of his fourth world-wide win of the season, but his first on the PGA Tour.
Els has 15 career PGA Tour wins, including three major championships. Hes won multiple events each of the last three years.
 
But no one wins world wide as does Els.
 
For all his Stateside success, Els is truly a global dominator. He is credited with 41 international victories ' and that doesnt even include his 2002 British Open triumph, which counts in the PGA Tour department. While hes won seven times on the PGA Tour over the last three and a half seasons, hes won twice as much during that same stretch on various other tours.
 
This year, his count is: three wins outside of the U.S., no wins on the inside.
 
It seems like the weather has been better on the European Tour, you know, and I like warm weather, Els said at last weeks BMW Championship. The places where the European Tour has gone, we've had some good weather and I think the golf courses have probably suited me.
 
Whatever the explanation for Ernies scale tipping in international favor, it will be six weeks before he heads back east of the Atlantic.
 
Els will be competing in this weeks Memorial Tournament, where he is the defending champion, and then will be teeing it up the following week at the Booz Allen Classic, which will be contested at Congressional Country Club, site of his 1997 U.S. Open victory.
 
The U.S. Open at Pinehurst is next on Els schedule. Hell then take off two weeks before heading to Scotland for the Barclays Scottish Open, one week prior to the Open Championship at St. Andrews.
 
Once again, Els will be heading to Muirfield Village Golf Club straight from the Wentworth Club in Surrey, England. Els, who owns his primary residence at Wentworth, disappointingly tied for 37th at the BMW Championship, the European Tours flagship event.
 
The result was Els second-worst finish of the year ' on any tour. He finished 47th at the Masters Tournament.
 
Perhaps, in some bizzaro way, thats good news for Els. This will be the third time hes returned to the U.S. after international ventures. On each of the two previous occasions, he won his final international start.
 
Perhaps its time again to win on the PGA Tour.
 
Five for the Title:
 
Ernie Els
Els used a pair of weekend, 6-under 66s to runaway from the field a year ago. He has never missed the cut in 11 career starts here. The victory was his second of the 2004 PGA Tour season, but hes still seeking his first this year. Beginning in 1993, Els has won at least once on tour every year with the exception of 2001. He will be trying to become just the second player to successfully defend his title in the event; which leads us to our No. 2 contender
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods is looking to bounce back from his first missed cut since 1998.
The Memorial might be Jacks tournament, but not even Nicklaus has a record like Woods. Tiger is the only repeat winner in this event, doing so three consecutive years from 1999-01. In fact, over the last six years he has only one finish outside the top-4. He was third a year ago, finishing six back of Els. If anything, Woods should be a safe bet to begin anew his cuts-made streak. The Masters champion had his tour record of 142 events without missing a cut come to an end in his last start at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship.
 
Vijay Singh
Singh isnt quite Tiger-like at Muirfield Village, but hes no slouch either. Singh won the tournament in 1997 and has four top-5 finishes in his last six starts here. He hasnt played since the Byron Nelson, but he has again supplanted Woods atop the Official World Golf Ranking, despite his absence. Woods certainly has the one win that counts most this season, but once again Singh has outplayed him on the whole. Despite playing five more tour events than Woods, Singhs average finish this season is 7.71; Tigers is 13.67. Singh, like Woods, has missed one cut, but unlike Woods, he has yet to finish outside the top 25. He also has only two finishes outside the top-5 since February. That should answer any questions as to who is No. 1.
 
Fred Couples
Players often say of a course, It suits my eye. Well, Muirfield certainly suits the eye of Fred Couples just fine ' at least now it does. Couples missed the cut in this event in three of his first five attempts. Since then, he has four top-4s, including a win in 1998. He was runner-up to Els a year ago, shooting 68 on Sunday, but still coming up four short. The 45-year-old hasnt performed particularly well this season, but he hasnt been awful either. He has made the cut in seven of nine starts and has four top-25s. His lone top-10 came at Bay Hill.
 
Kenny Perry
After dominating the Bank of America Colonial, Perry ' and his corrected eyes ' cooled off considerably at last weeks FedEx St. Jude Classic. But Perry has never had much success at the FedEx. So missing the cut wasnt that much of a surprise, considering he hadnt played there since 1999 and had missed the cut in each of his two previous starts at the TPC at Southwind. On the other hand, Perry has had great success at Muirfield ' just as hes had at Colonial. Perry won the tournament in 1991 and again in 2003 ' the year he also won the Colonial. He tied for sixth last year, giving him three top-10 finishes in his last four trips to Dublin, Ohio.
 
Playing Out the Front Nine
 
Four more players to keep an eye on
 
*Davis Love III, who tied for fourth last week in Memphis. Love has a modest record at Muirfield, making 12 cuts in 14 starts, with four top-10s. But those arent the numbers one might expect from a player of Loves pedigree at this event. Perry is the only player on the champions list over the last 12 years who doesnt have a major title to his credit. Love would fit nicely among that group.
 
*Jim Furyk, who ended Woods three-year reign with his 2002 victory. Furyk didnt compete in this event last year due to his wrist injury. He has never missed the cut here in nine starts and has a fourth-place finish (1998) and a runner-up (1997) to go along with his win.
 
*Mike Weir, who is still in search of his first win since the 2004 Nissan Open. Weir has been playing like a right-hander recently. After tying for fifth at the Masters, he missed the cut at the Wachovia Championship and did the same at Colonial. It was the first time he had missed back-to-back cuts since 1999. He does, however, have a good track record here, having made the cut in all five of his starts. He was third in 2003 and fourth in 2000.
 
*Jack Nicklaus, who will be making his 30th consecutive start in this event. Nicklaus, the tournament host, has played in each and every Memorial Tournament. He won in 1977 and again in 84. Nicklaus hates being considered a ceremonial golfer, but at least here he is semi-competitive. Nicklaus has made the cut in five of the last eight years here, including last year at the age of 64. Sam Snead, at 67 years, 2 months, 21 days, is the oldest player to ever make a cut on tour.
 
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    Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

    By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

    After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

     There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.



    It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

    It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

    “The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

    In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.



    Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

    Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

    “You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

    Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.



    Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

    If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

    For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

    Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.



    Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

    While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

    When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

    Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.



    After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

    The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

    That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

    The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

    While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.



    Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

    Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

    “We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

    The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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    Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

    John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

    That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

    Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

    Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

    Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

    Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.


    Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters


    Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

    World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

    Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

    Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

    Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

    By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

    The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

    Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

    "I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

    Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

    Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

    Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.