Els Temporarily on Top

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If anybody had asked me, I would have told them that:
 
  • Ernie Els is the best player in the world at the moment. That is not to say he should be ranked No. 1. That is not to say (as Seve Ballesteros contends) that Els has more talent than Tiger Woods. That is not to say Woods isn't the greatest player who ever lived. He is.
     
    What it is meant to suggest is two things: First, Els may turn out to be one of the five great players in golf history before all is said and done. It is also meant to suggest that 2003 was a year in which Woods struggled with his swing, his equipment and a full recovery from knee surgery. Will Woods ever play back to his form of 2000? I think so. But in golf, there are no guarantees.
     
  • Shigeki Maruyama and Tommy Armour III have very little in common. But Armour's recent victory at the Valero Texas Open and Maruyama's win Sunday at Chrysler Classic of Greensboro were similar. Both players made lots of putts. Both won going away. By the way, Maruyama, now that he is mostly healthy again, will be sorely missed on Gary Player's International Presidents Cup team next month in South Africa. Remember how the effervescent Maruyama won all five of his matches for the Internationals at Royal Melbourne in 1998? Teammate Frank Nobilo says Maruyama was an inspiration to his teammates at that venue.
     
    Maruyama was honored just to be part of it all. There's a lesson there for those who would learn from it.
     
  • And how about Brad Faxon? Shows up at Greensboro ranked 58th in putting and 19th on the money list (that's a trick in itself). Putts great and finishes second for the third time this year. Faxon is perhaps the most naturally articulate and likeable player in the game today. When Johnny Miller retires from NBC's booth, they ought to hire Faxon to replace him. Faxon won't have quite the edge. But he knows how to make his points and his mind is every bit as lively as Johnny's.
     
  • Olin Browne once told me a story about bacon. Specifically, he asked me if I'd ever seen bacon that had been in the frying pan too long. Crispy and burnt, he said. That, he added, is what happens to players this time of year who have played too much.
     
  • Last year's runner-up at Greensboro, Mark Calcavecchia, five-putted the 18th hole Thursday, packed his bags and withdrew. Garrett Willis carded a Thursday 79. He, too, withdrew. Neither gave a reason to tour officials.
     
  • Because he didn't win the SBC Championship Sunday, Scotland's Sam Torrance will have to survive two stages of Champions Tour Q-School. 'That can be hard to do,' he said. Lots of people are hoping Sam makes it through. 'He's a wonderful guy,' says Craig Stadler, that Tour's hottest player.
     
  • Next time you see Thomas Bjorn being interviewed on television, close your eyes and just pay attention to the sound of his voice. It's Sean Connery in Goldfinger. The strange part is Bjorn's a Dane. Connery's a Scot.
     
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