Notes Els is Frequent Flier


PGA TourErnie Els is the most global player in golf, a modern-day version of Gary Player. He was born in South Africa, makes his home in London and plays the majority of his tournaments in the United States.

He already has made at least a dozen transoceanic flights this year while competing in five of the six continents where golf is played.
Ernie ElsBut the Big Easy feels like the PGA Tour is making him wear a ball and chain.

'I am a world player, and they have to accept that,' Els said last month when his frustrations began to surface.

Even though Els was a European tour regular before coming to America in 1994, the PGA Tour requires what amounts to a permission slip for Els to play overseas.

PGA Tour members ordinarily are eligible for three releases to play overseas if they play a 15-event schedule. For every additional release, they are required to play five extra tour events.

'That's impossible for me,' said Els, who already has played in Thailand, Australia, Dubai, Germany and England this year, and returns to golf this week in Switzerland. 'It's the same old stuff. You give me this, I'll give you that. I've been playing that game for 10 years now, so I guess we'll keep playing it.'
Els could get unlimited releases by declaring the European tour -- and not the South African tour -- as his home tour, but then he would have to play 20 times a year on the PGA Tour, and that's too much golf for him to stay fresh.
Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, says the tour tries to be flexible with the release, especially when a player wins a major and has financial opportunities (appearance money) overseas.
In fact, Els got nine releases last year for the 18 tour events he played. This year, he is expected to get 10 releases in exchange for 17 tour events.

'We don't put pressure on players,' Hughes said. 'It's just a matter of agreeing what we want them to play in exchange for what they want. Ernie being an international player, he needs a few more releases.'

Still, it seems odd that an international player has to make so many concessions just to be on the PGA Tour.

Els isn't happy with the situation, although he understands his role as someone who brings star power to an event. But while Els has hinted the last few years about playing more often on the PGA Tour, that probably won't happen now.
The Grand Slam of Golf was supposed to be played Dec. 3-4 at Poipu Bay on Kauai until a small problem came up -- two of the major champions had other plans.

PGA champion Vijay Singh decided to play in the Father-Son Challenge with son Qass in Orlando, Fla., on that same weekend. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen already was committed to play an event in his native South Africa.

The easiest solution was to move the 36-hole tournament to Nov. 23-24, and make sure it wasn't a problem for Masters champion Phil Mickelson and British Open champion Todd Hamilton.

Moving the Grand Slam of Golf up a week now makes for a full week of golf in a never-ending season. It will be played the Tuesday-Wednesday before Thanksgiving, followed by the Skins Game that weekend.
Paula Creamer is not waiting for a high school diploma before she goes after her LPGA Tour card. Golfweek magazine reports this week that Creamer has entered LPGA Q-school this fall.

Creamer, who tied for 13th at the U.S. Women's Open, will remain an amateur so she can compete in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Puerto Rico. She graduates high school in December.

If she gets her card, the magazine said Creamer will turn professional and play a full schedule next year. If she fails to earn status, she could either try to earn her card through six sponsor exemptions or go to college.
Even though Nick Price is a two-time PGA champion, the fourth major has long had a habit of getting in the way of his family priorities.

Price withdrew in 1991 when his wife gave birth to their first child. Now that his children are older, Price has skipped the last two PGAs because of a family vacation. And he offers no apologies.

'That's just the worst time the tournament could be for me,' Price said last week in Hartford. 'It's the only time we could really take a three-week break and be together. It's not asking much to take a week out of your year's schedule to spend an extra week on holiday with your kids. I wouldn't trade it for anything.'
Price said he missed not playing Oak Hill and Whistling Straits, 'but life is too short and it's too important.'

He has a lifetime exemption to the PGA, and Price said he won't always be on vacation in August. He figures his children (13, 11, 7) soon will reach an age when they would rather spend time with their friends.
'Until that day comes, and my kids want to go somewhere else on summer vacation, I'll continue doing it,' he said.
The Ladies European Tour changed its rules Tuesday to eliminate the 'female at birth' policy for its members, opening the way for Mianne Bagger to try to earn her card. Bagger, a 37-year-old from Denmark, had a sex reassignment surgery and played in the Women's Australian Open this year. The policy change allows Bagger to play in European events and go to Q-school. ... Ryan Moore hopes his next conquest will be the Men's World Amateur Championship. Moore, who already has won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links, NCAA Championship and Western Amateur, will join Spencer Levin and NCAA runner-up Lee Williams on the U.S. team that will play Oct. 28-31 in Puerto Rico. ... Jane Rah, a 13-year-old from Torrance, Calif., shot 76 to win the Safeway Classic Amateur Open and earn a spot in the field Sept. 17-19 at the LPGA's Safeway Classic in Portland.
Esteban Toledo has played in 27 of the 28 tournaments for which he has been eligible this year, missing only the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He is 212th on the PGA Tour money list with $92,733.
'As long as I don't make doubles or triples, I can get the ball around and fool myself into thinking I'm doing better than I'm really doing.' -- Fred Couples.
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