Els Seeks His Masterful Moment

By Mercer BaggsApril 6, 2005, 4:00 pm
Ernie Els almost rolls his eyes at the talk of a golfing Big Four.
You guys (the media) are talking about the Big Four more than I think anybody, Els said Tuesday in his press conference at The Masters.
Ernie Els
Ernie Els has six top-10 finishes in 11 career Masters starts.
In other words, Els and Tiger Woods and Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson dont sit around in the locker room discussing their greatness. They dont meet in private and share a secret handshake. They dont dine and have drinks together, and dont compare and contrast one another.
There was, however, a dinner Tuesday night in Augusta, Ga. Tiger was there, and so was Vijay, and so was Phil. But there was no Ernie. Ernie wasnt there, because Ernie wasn't invited.
This dinner is for Masters champions only. And Els is the only member of this media manufactured Big Four who doesnt have the requisite green jacket for the sit-down.
Over the last five years, Woods, Singh and Mickelson have combined to win four Masters titles. Els has finished inside the top 10 on each and every occasion ' but never has he finished first.
He came the closest to doing so a year ago. Els shot 67 in the final round and then waited to see ' or rather hear ' if Mickelson would tie him or beat him.
I was sitting on the putting green, trying to hit some putts and eating an apple and stuff like that, and hoping for a playoff, Els said. I thought my chances were pretty good for a playoff.
Els was thinking playoff for two reasons. For one, he just couldnt imagine having played so wonderfully and not being rewarded. For another, he knew his opponent. Mickelson was the only man who could beat him ' and, in these situations, Mickelson always seemed to beat himself.
But this time, the 18-footer ' the one that easily could have slingshot out of the left lip for a playoff producing par ' curled softly into the hole for a birdie and a one-shot victory in Mickelsons favor.
I couldnt see that it was Phil (who made the putt), Els said. But after hearing the peoples applause and stuff, I knew it was Phil.
And just like that, Mickelson major monkey vanished in a deafening roar. And Els Masters misfortune piled on.
Three-hundred and 61 days later, Els showed no outward signs of excessive baggage. Even though he was just getting over a nasty cold, he was upbeat in tone and answer. He almost seemed to share in the popular opinion that he will be the one deciding next year's menu at the Champions Dinner.
I just see the golf course in a new light this year, he said. Im excited about this year.
When asked to expand on this new light, Els just smiled and replied: No, sorry.
Els has competed in 50 major championships in his career and has finished inside the top 10 on 24 occasions. Let that one soak in: he finishes in the top 10 nearly every other time he makes a start. Thats a better percentage than Woods (45 percent), Singh (31) and Mickelson (42).
Els appears to always play a leading role in the outcome of major championships. Hes is a three-time winner and a six-time runner-up. He has 17 top-5 finishes and hasnt missed the cut in one since the 1999 PGA Championship.
Last year alone, he twice finished second (losing in a playoff to Todd Hamilton at the British Open), missed out on a playoff in the PGA Championship by a stroke, and played in the final twosome on Sunday at the U.S. Open.
Thats a whole lot of consistency and a whole lot of heartbreak. And considering that this is the title he most wants, nowhere has his heart been more wrenched than at Augusta National.
I dont want to approach a tournament in that fashion where I feel that the tournament or the place or golf course or anything owes me anything, Els said.
All I can do is try and prepare myself to the best of my ability to try and have another go at it, and thats exactly what Im in the process of doing.
Els has two victories on the season, coming in back-to-back weeks in early March on the European Tour. He first captured the Dubai Desert Classic and then the Qatar Masters.
He has yet to win in the States, but he does have three top-10s in just five starts.
Im glad that Ive hit some form, although it wasnt on the U.S. circuit, Els said. But Ive had a couple of wins under my belt now and Ive felt the pressure.
So its important to have played one or two tournaments very, very well up to this point because theres a different feel of pressure out here at Augusta.
No one ' not even Els ' has been tortured by this tournament as much as Greg Norman. And yet there is no tournament that Norman cherishes more.
Els feels much the same. He said that last years experience ' while on the cusp of devestation ' was the most special Sunday afternoon stroll that Ive ever had. Hes proud of the fact that he massaged a 67 out of terrible tension ' even if it was one shot too many.
And maybe this is the year that he is finally both good and lucky.
I think right from the get-go, I think my expectations always have been to win this tournament, said Els, who tied for eighth in his Masters debut in 1994. So if your expectations are that high, anything less than that is a bit of a disappointment.
If I never win this tournament, Ive still played some good golf here and Ive had some good times here. But obviously, winning is everything right now.
All I can do is prepare, stay focused, try to hit the shots that I need to, and at the end of the day have a bit of luck going my way. You need a bit of luck in this game, too.
Related Links:
  • Tee Times
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
  • Getty Images

    Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

    By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

    One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

    Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

    "I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

    Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

    "I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

    Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

    "Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

    Getty Images

    Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

    Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

    Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

    “I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

    The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

    “I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

    Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

    This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

    The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

    Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

    The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.

    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

    A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

    And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

    The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.

    Masters victory

    Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

    Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

    Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative

    Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ

    Green jacket tour

    Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

    Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

    Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket

    Man of the people

    Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

    Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

    Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief

    Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together

    Ace at 17th at Sawgrass

    Growing family

    Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

    Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018

    Departure from TaylorMade

    Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade

    Squashed beef with Paddy

    Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

    Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'

    Victory at Valderrama

    Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm