By REX HOGGARDORLANDO, Fla. – Ernie Els is the undisputed king of the Florida Swing, breaking camp and heading north to Augusta National with two keepsakes and more confidence than he’s enjoyed in a decade. Picking the best tournament from the foursome is not so easy.
From the outset, the young guns made things interesting, with Camilo Villegas, Anthony Kim, Justin Rose and Paul Casey going 1, 2, 3 and T-4 at the most-improved Honda Classic.
The Transitions Championship, quickly becoming the sneaky good stop of the spring, was good theater with Jim Furyk ending one of the game’s most confounding victory schneids on what may be the swing’s best layout.
And Bay Hill, always an entertaining fixture in the cleanup spot, would have taken top honors, thanks in large part to a golf course nip/tuck and stellar leaderboard, if not for a Sunday deluge and Ernie Els’ self-destruct near-miss before the weather delay gave the eventual champion a standing 10-count.
The month’s best, however, goes to the WGC-CA Championship, where the golf world was largely introduced to a rail-thin South African named Charl Schwartzel and a resurgent Els. The Big Easy’s closing 66 is the leader in the clubhouse for round of the year and, if one believes in omens, the start of something special.
By JAY COFFIN
All four events were significant, but the WGC-CA Championship is the one that stands out most in my mind. It marked the return of Ernie Els, the man who has been stung more in the Tiger Woods era than perhaps anyone else. It marked the beginning of what is likely Els last chance at becoming one of the top players in the game again and it’s fitting that it came at a time when the Tour is Tiger-less.
It wasn’t so much the victory itself, but the way Els won at Doral. Charl Schwartzel had tightened the lead midway through the final round and Els could’ve folded. However, it was the Big Easy of old who stepped on the gas pedal and walked away from the competition to win by four shots, proving he still has some fight left in his 40-year-old body.
Victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was icing on the cake for Els and essentially sends him to the Masters as the favorite to win behind you-know-who. But Doral was where “The Comeback” began. Now, it’s up to Els to determine how the story ends.