Ernie is just like that sweetheart that goes around and around in circles every day. If youve got a golf tournament and youve got a million bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you call Ernie. I dont care where it is on this planet, he will have his clubs and plane on the ready.
This week, for instance, he is about to play the second in a string of six consecutive weeks. Lets see, last week he was in Texas to play the EDS Byron Nelson. This week its Germany for the Deutsche Bank ' SAP Open (TGC, Beginning Thurs at 8:00 a.m. ET). Next week its off to England for the Volvo PGA Championship. Then he crosses the Atlantic again to Ohio for the Memorial.
Breathless yet? OK ' four weeks and counting. The fifth week is just a local stop ' 1,000 miles or so for the Buick Classic in New York And if he isnt dead by then, the sixth and final week is something called the U.S. Open.
This isnt such a bad leg, though. Theres no Australia thrown in there, no Thailand. Theres no long hauls to his native South Africa. Theres just a tournament every week for six weeks, with two ocean crossings. He does that as easily as you cross the street to get a quart of milk.
Of course, the obvious question is: werent you a little concerned about the run-up to a major tournament ' the Open, which incidentally he has already won twice. Arent you just a wee bit concerned that by then there wont be any gas left in the tank?
Yeah, absolutely, Ernie said. But when you play both tours, you know, it's kind of difficult sometimes because I won the Order of Merit (money title) last year in Europe, and Ken Schofield (commissioner of the European Tour) really wanted me to play at the PGA at Wentworth.
That's their flagship event, and they were having their big awards dinner and everything that week. I think it would have been awkward if I wasn't there, and the fact that I've got a house there (at Wentworth near London) also helps.
SAP, Deutsche Bank - SAP is my main sponsor so I've kind of got to go there.
They're actually playing a nice course this year, it's further south, so we should have good weather.
Of course, he wouldnt think of upsetting Jack Nicklaus, so he pencils in Jacks Memorial Tournament. Then the Buick Classic is my favorite event, also, so it's difficult to leave some events out, said Els. And then theres the national championship.
Actually, Ernie had a whole three weeks off before the Nelson. Tsk-tsk ' arent we lazy, now! Of course, even when hes off work, hes still traveling. There was a five-day jaunt from London to his South African home thrown in there. But that was nothing ' just a milk run across the street, in your parlance.
I just felt after a three-week break, I've just got to get back to work and do what I do best - and that's play golf, he said half-apologizing for his laziness.
Who knows what Els could do if he concentrated on just playing one tour? He might win 10 times and average 65 ' or he might fare worse than he does now. This go-go-go thing might be just what the physio ordered.
I've been doing it my whole career now, and it's a little easier the way we travel nowadays, so I can sleep a little better, he said.
Yeah, jetlag still gets you. Coming this way is no problem. Going back to Europe from here tends to get me a little bit more. I'm a fit young man and I've been doing it my whole life. It's not such a big deal.
When you go through serious time change, if you go to the Far East, that's a totally different story, but a nine-hour flight, I get on the plane, I have my dinner, sleep, wake up on the other side, and there you are. It's just an overnight flight. It's not a big deal. As I say, I come from South Africa and I've been doing it since 1984, so it's been 20 years.
So he will go on with his life, grabbing sleep where he can, not really belonging to any country, but then again, belonging to golf around the world. Hes a citizen of the planet.
I've said to you guys so many times through the years that next year I'll play more, next year I'll play more (in the U.S.), but I guess I'm comfortable with it. I can't really see myself playing just one tour at the moment, especially with where my family is now (London). It would be difficult for me to do that.
I'm doing OK, you know, I feel when I play over here three weeks that I can take a break. I can go somewhere else. I play over there a couple of weeks, I can get out of there.
The bottom line is, dont feel sorry for Ernie. Ernie certainly doesnt.
I'd like to believe that I've got the best of both worlds, he says, that I can get out when I want to, and I feel comfortable with that and I'm fine with that.
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