Els Still Global with Tours Blessing


04 Tour Championship by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Ernie Els will play in the United States and in China, in England and in Australia, during another season of global golf with the blessing of the PGA Tour.
Els' dispute with the PGA Tour turned out to be a misunderstanding. Only after a meeting Tuesday morning at East Lake did the Big Easy realize the tour wasn't demanding he play any more in the United States than he already does.
'I haven't got a problem with the tour anymore, and they don't have a problem with me,' Els said. 'We're fine.'
The 34-year-old South African had said during the summer he was frustrated by having to play more PGA Tour events than he wanted.
Els was particularly angry about playing in the Buick Classic, which ultimately gave him six consecutive tournaments -- two of them in Europe -- ending with the U.S. Open. He was in the final group at Shinnecock Hills, but shot 80.
The cause of the rift was an e-mail from the tour that outlined Els' options for the 2005 season.
The PGA Tour requires its members to play in 15 tournaments. Players must get a release to play overseas in tournaments that conflict with events on the PGA Tour schedule.
The guideline is for three releases for every 15 tournaments, with an extra release for every additional five PGA Tour events they play. But the tour routinely makes exceptions, and Els is in a class by himself.
No other player travels as extensively as Els, who has held membership on the PGA and European tours the last 10 years. Els recently won the European tour money list for the second straight year, and he is No. 3 on the PGA Tour money going into the Tour Championship.
Els said he perceived the e-mail to be an ultimatum, not a guideline. He met with Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour; and Sid Wilson, vice president of player relations. 'They assured me they didn't have the problem I thought I had with them,' Els said.
Els said he would play 19 times on the PGA Tour next year. In the 10 years Els has been a PGA Tour, he has played at least 18 times for all but three of those seasons.
If anything, he is cutting back on his international schedule.
He is skipping the European Masters in Switzerland and the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany, instead playing the Deutsche Bank Championship outside Boston. He will continue to play in Australia, and he is adding two tournaments in China that will be played in late April.
Els also said he would skip the Accenture Match Play Championship at La Costa, which would require him to travel from South Africa to San Diego for perhaps only one match, then to Dubai.
Els said he would return to Doral when it no longer is held the same week as Dubai.
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