He Aint Done Yet

By Randall MellMarch 15, 2010, 6:27 am

2010 WGC-CA Championship

DORAL, Fla. – Ernie Els deserves one more glorious run.

His scars say so.

Nobody’s heart has been cracked more in gut-wrenching finishes the last decade than Els.

With his victory Sunday at the WGC-CA Championship, Els earned his 61st title around the world, his 17th on the PGA Tour, and yet it’s the painful losses that have come to define the fading arc of his career these past few seasons.

“This was massive,” said Ricci Roberts, Els’ caddie. “A lot of people have doubted him. He ain’t done yet.”

With a masterful 6-under-par 66 Sunday, Els won for the first time in two years, just the second time on the PGA Tour in six years.

Ernie Els
Ernie Els reacts to his first PGA Tour win in over two years. (Getty Images)
Els claimed more than a trophy in the fading South Florida light. He claimed the confidence, momentum and hope he’ll need to chase down dreams that seem within reach again.

Those ambitions seemed lost in dramatic failures, in the disappointment that grew so heavy in trying so hard and coming so close.

You can trace it all back to 2004, when Els had a chance to win all four majors and didn’t win any of them.

That’s the year he had one arm in the green jacket, where he led by three shots on the back nine only to finish and watch Phil Mickelson birdie five of the last seven holes to beat him. It’s the year he went out with Retief Goosen in the final Sunday pairing of the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and shot 80. That’s the year Todd Hamilton beat him in a playoff at the British Open and the year he three-putted the final green at the PGA Championship to miss out on a playoff.

Els hasn’t been the same since. His victory Sunday at Doral was just his second on the PGA Tour since that wretched season ended.

There have been other scarring losses, too many of them in beat downs at the hands of Tiger Woods. Nobody’s endured more lashings from Woods in this era than Els. He’s finished second to Woods seven times in his career, more than any other player on the planet. He once lost an eight-shot lead to Woods in the final round of the Johnnie Walker Classic in 1998.

“It’s been a battle,” Roberts said.

Roberts has been on Els’ bag for nearly 18 years. He was there for all three of Els’ major championship triumphs, and he likes his bosses’ chances again. He likes them because of the way Els is putting again.

“He made putts today, which he hasn’t done in two years,” Roberts said. “You make putts and anything’s possible.”

The Masters is a month away, and suddenly Els has to be counted among the favorites. That speaks to what winning at Doral meant. Els has finished sixth or better five times at Augusta National, but he hasn’t contended there since Mickelson beat him in ‘04. He’s missed the cut the last three times he’s played the Masters.

“Two years ago when I won [the Honda Classic], I got all carried away and thought I was going to win Augusta,” Els said. “This time, I just want to take this in.”

Els has tried to push himself back on top before with bold pledges. In ’06, he announced his plan to gain back the No. 1 ranking. That didn’t work out so well. This time, he’s fighting his way back with hard work. He is impressing his inner circle with his devotion to work.

“He’s as dedicated to his game as he was the first day he came out,” his wife, Liezl, said. “Because people call him the Big Easy, it’s to forget how hard he works and how much he wants it.”

Roberts will tell you that Els still burns to win the career Grand Slam. It doesn’t seem so farfetched now that he could still add to his two U.S. Open championships and his British Open title. He needs to win the Masters and the PGA Championship to claim titles in all four majors.

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The Masters will be about overcoming the cruel memories he has there, but Els will have this fantastic Doral finish to feed upon. He didn’t make a bogey in the final round. The balky putting stroke that’s plagued his game for too long is working again. He holed a 24-foot putt to save par at the 14th Sunday. He tamed the Blue Monster with just 26 putts over the final round.

The PGA Championship is at Whistling Straits, where Els tied for fourth six years ago.

Els’ family and friends know how deep the scars run and how much Els still wants to win majors.

“My cell phone is going berserk,” Liezl said with her husband signing his scorecard.

The victory means her husband, once the No. 1 player in the world, is relevant on the big stages again.

“It means he’s back on track,” Liezl said.

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Romo set to make PGA Tour debut at Punta Cana

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:43 pm

While much of the attention in golf this week will be focused on the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Tony Romo may send a few eyeballs toward the Caribbean.

The former quarterback and current CBS NFL analyst will make his PGA Tour debut this week, playing on a sponsor invite at the Corales Punta Cana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic. The exemption was announced last month when Romo played as an amateur at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and he's apparently been hard at work ever since.

"I'll be treating it very serious," Romo told reporters Tuesday. "My wife will tell you she hasn't seen me much over the last month. But if you know me at all, I think you know if I care about something I'm going to commit to it 100 percent. So like I said. you'll get the best I've got this week."

Romo retired from the NFL last year and plays to a plus-0.3 handicap. In addition to his participation in the Pebble Beach event, he has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open multiple times and last month played a North Texas PGA mini-tour event as an amateur.

According to Romo, one of the key differences between pro football and golf is the fact that his former position is entirely about reactive decisions, while in golf "you're trying to commit wholeheartedly before you ever pull the club out of your bag."

"I'm not worried about getting hit before I hit the ball," Romo said. "It's at my own tempo, my own speed, in this sport. Sometimes that's difficult, and sometimes that's easier depending on the situation."

Romo admitted that he would have preferred to have a couple extra weeks to prepare, but recently has made great strides in his wedge game which "was not up to any Tour standard." The first-tee jitters can't be avoided, but Romo hopes to settle in after battling nerves for the first three or four holes Thursday.

Romo hopes to derive an added comfort factor from his golf in the Dallas area, where he frequently plays with a group of Tour pros. While Steph Curry traded texts with a few pros before his tournament debut last summer on the Web.com Tour, Romo expects his phone to remain silent until he puts a score on the board.

"I think they're waiting to either tell me 'Congrats' or 'I knew it, terrible,'" Romo said. "Something along those lines. They're probably going to wait to see which way the wind's blowing before they send them."

Romo will tee off at 8:10 a.m. ET Thursday alongside Dru Love and Denny McCarthy.

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Spieth vs. Reed random? Hmm, wonders Spieth

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:42 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Monday’s blind draw to determine the 16 pods for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play didn’t exactly feel “blind” for Jordan Spieth, whose group includes Patrick Reed.

Spieth and Reed have become a staple of U.S. teams in recent years, with a 7-2-2 record in the Ryder and Presidents Cup combined. So when the ping-pong ball revealed Reed’s number on Monday night Spieth wasn’t surprised.

“It seems to me there's a bit more to this drawing than randomness,” laughed Spieth, whose pod also includes Haotong Li and Charl Schwartzel. “It's not just me and him. It's actually a lot of groups, to have Luke List and Justin [Thomas] in the same group seems too good to be true. It might be some sort of rigging that's going on, I'm not sure.”

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Spieth will play Reed on Friday in the round-robin format and knows exactly what to expect from the fiery American.

“I've seen it firsthand when he's been at his best. And we have history together in a couple of different playoffs, which is a match-play scenario,” Spieth said. “I've got to take care of work tomorrow and the next day for that day to even matter. But even if it doesn't matter, trust me, it will matter to both of us.”

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U.S. Open champ Koepka (wrist) to miss Masters

By Will GrayMarch 20, 2018, 6:12 pm

Reigning U.S. Open champ Brooks Koepka will miss the Masters, according to a USA Today report.

Koepka has been battling a left wrist injury since late last year, and he hasn't played since finishing last at the limited-field Sentry Tournament of Champions in early January. Weeks later he revealed that he had a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU) tendon but hoped to return in time for the season's first major.

According to the report, Koepka only started putting this week and plans to begin hitting chips next week.

"They said I would be about 80 percent, but I can't play 80 percent," Koepka said. "I either have to go full bore or not at all. I don't want to risk getting it re-injured and then be out a long time."

Koepka has finished T-33 or better in each of his three prior Masters appearances, culminating in a T-11 result last year.

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Spieth's agent leaving firm, but keeping Spieth as client

By Rex HoggardMarch 20, 2018, 6:07 pm

AUSTIN, Texas – Jay Danzi has stepped down as COO of Lagardère Sports U.S., and will take one of the game’s most marketable players, Jordan Spieth, with him.

In a press release, Danzi said, “after careful consideration I feel that it’s time for a new adventure.” Danzi will represent Spieth independently.

“It’s been a privilege having Jordan be part of the Lagardère Sports’ family for the last five years and watching him grow from a promising young player to someone who transcends the game,” said Steve Loy, Lagardère Sports president of golf. “We are also grateful for Jay’s contributions over the years, in golf and other areas of our business.”

Lagardère Sports underwent an aggressive expansion in recent years, acquiring numerous boutique firms including Danzi’s business and Crown Sports Management.

Although losing Spieth, the world’s fourth-ranked player, and Danzi, who took over as Lagardère COO in February 2017, is a setback, the firm still has a number of high-profile clients including Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour this season.