Els Flirts With 59 at Heineken Classic

By Sports NetworkFebruary 5, 2004, 5:00 pm
VICTORIA, Australia -- Ernie Els fired a 12-under-par 60 on Thursday to tie a European Tour record and take a four-shot lead after the opening round of the Heineken Classic.
'I have shot 61 about four times in my career,' said Els. 'I've shot low numbers before but this is the first time in quite a while to have a go at breaking 60.'
Michael Campbell finished alone in second place at 8-under-par 64. Tobias Dier, who shot a 60 at the Dutch Open in 2002, was one shot further back along with Mahal Pearce, Craig Carmichael and Wade Ormsby at 7-under-par 65.
Els, who is trying to become the first person to win this event in three consecutive seasons, wasted little time in making history on the Composite Course at Royal Melbourne Golf Club.
He picked up his first birdie of the day at the par-5 second and followed that up with a birdie at the par-3 third after his tee shot stopped within 18 feet of the cup.
Els then dropped his approach inside eight feet for a birdie at the fifth and hit an 8-iron to four feet for a birdie at the next hole.
At the par-3 eighth, Els picked up another birdie to begin a remarkable stretch of golf that put him in a position to become the first person to shoot 59 on the European Tour.
'Over the last five, six, seven holes I really felt it. I wanted to break 60,' said Els. 'You don't get these chances too often. When it comes around, you try to go flat out.'
The South African roped a 3-iron to seven feet at the par-5 ninth and drained the putt for an eagle to reach 7-under. Els then grabbed a share of the lead with a birdie at the following hole.
Els kept cruising and birdied the next four holes to reach 12-under par on his round.
His magical run was derailed by a bogey at the par-4 15th but Els bounced right back with a birdie at the very next hole.
'The last nine holes I felt like I was playing the last day of a golf tournament,' said Els. 'You feel like you need to make more birdies to win the tournament. That's the kind of pressure I felt.'
Els had chances down the stretch but settled for pars on the closing holes to match the lowest 18-hole score on the European Tour.
'I can complain but I am not going to,' said Els, who established a course record at Royal Melbourne. 'I hit a lot of great shots and made a lot of good putts and had a lot of good fortune going my way. It was one of those special rounds.'
Campbell, who is a two-time winner of this event, collected eight birdies and no bogeys to set the pace early but in the end finished a distant second.
Adam Scott, who played alongside Els, joined fellow Australians Peter Fowler, Richard Green, Peter O'Malley and Paul Sheehan at 6-under-par 66.
Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Nick Flanagan, who played in the group with Els and Scott, posted a 5-under 67 to finish alongside Gary Evans, Peter Hanson, Peter Hedblom, Gareth Paddison, Craig Parry and Craig Spence.
Nick Faldo, who tied for second at this event last year, was one shot further back in a group at 4-under-par 68 that featured Ian Poulter and Paul Casey.
Related Links:
  • Scorecard - Ernie Els
  • Leaderboard - Heineken Classic
  • Full Coverage - Heineken Classic
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.