Notes Not Always Easy for Els

RSS

Ernie Els appears to be a solid front-runner. His record is 18-11 when he has at least a share of the lead going into the final round on the PGA and European tours.
 
But the Big Easy tends to make it hard on himself.
 
His victory in the Heineken Classic was the latest example of Els letting a big lead get away. His eight-shot lead vanished on the front nine when he shot 42. Els birdied four of the next five holes and beat Adam Scott by one.
 
Some other examples:
 
At the Sony Open last month, he had a two-shot lead with four holes to play, three-putted from 30 feet to lose momentum and needed two playoff holes to defeat Harrison Frazar.
 
At Muirfield, he had a three-shot lead by five holes to play in the '02 British Open. Els bogeyed No. 13, took double bogey at No. 16 and had to rally to get into a playoff. He survived after five extra holes to win the claret jug.
 
At Doral, Els had an eight-shot lead going into the final round. Tiger Woods trimmed it to a single shot after 12 holes, but Els recovered to win by two.
 
At times, Els looks like one of the most dominant players in golf.
 
'I honestly believe that when Ernie is on top of his game like he is now, and Tiger Woods is on top of his, they are pretty hard to separate,' Scott said after Els opened with rounds of 60-66-68 last week at Royal Melbourne.
 
Other times, he looks incapable of a squashing the competition with a big lead.
 
'I don't know how I brought it back, but I did,' Els said at the Heineken Classic. 'With a big lead, you just can't let it slip at this level. And I let it slip.'
 
Still, the result is impressive. Not many other guys can go through that kind of turmoil down the stretch and still show the moxie to keep it together.
 
GIVING BACK
 
Curtis Strange won the NCAA title in 1974 and helped lead Wake Forest to two championships while playing on a scholarship created by Arnold Palmer.
 
Now, the two-time U.S. Open champion wants to give someone else a chance.
 
Strange created an endowed golf scholarship at Wake Forest worth $700,000 over three years.
 
'I've been excited about this for three months,' Strange said, who announced the scholarship during an alumni gathering over the weekend. 'The golf program helped me so much at school, and you want to do something for the people that helped you so much.'
 
PEBBLE WEATHER
 
It was only five years ago that some people argued Pebble Beach should be moved to the end of the California swing to improve its chances of decent weather.
 
Rain forced the tournament to be canceled in 1996. There was longest delay in PGA Tour history in 1998, when Phil Mickelson hit his opening tee shot in February and hoisted the trophy in August. The tournament was called after three days in 1999 because of rain. Tiger Woods had to go five days to win a year later.
 
Like everything else, weather at Pebble Beach runs in cycles.
 
The last four years, the weather has ranged from brilliant to gorgeous to perfect.
 
'The reputation of Crosby weather is taking a beating,' Davis Love III said.
 
Divots: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he might try to play in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. 'I typically don't play in Pro-Ams because it takes too much of my time,' he said. 'But I will play one year, either next year or the following year. Because I want to play. I love these golf courses.' ... Alice Dye, whose golf career has included capturing national amateur championships, serving at the game's highest administrative levels and influencing modern golf architectural design to better serve players of all abilities, has been named recipient of the 2004 PGA First Lady of Golf Award.
 
Stat of the week: A victory at the Buick Invitational would be the seventh PGA Tour event that Tiger Woods has won at least three times.
 
Final word: 'I would have liked to sign autographs for everybody, but they want us to keep pace of play to nine hours.' -- Comedian George Lopez at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
 
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.