Hooks and cuts: Els, France and the Olympic Games


EVIAN-LES-BAINES, France – From the men’s third major of 2012 to the site of the women’s fifth major in 2013, here are some hooks and cuts for your entertainment:

Greg Norman collapsed in a heap at the Masters in 1996 and you knew it was over midway through the final round. Adam Scott stubbed his toe four times over the last four holes and fell an inch short of the finish line. The results were the same. Painful.

• Sometime in the next two weeks I will watch Olympic gymnastics with my wife and say, “Wow, she really stuck that dismount.”

• Heading into August, Tiger Woods is Player of the Year, though not the player he was.

• Some weeks on Tour, when it’s time to eat, we drive the rental to Outback. This week, we’re taking the boat to Lausanne.

• In a Golf Digest interview I did with Ernie Els in 2010, he told me he figures he would have won six or seven majors had Tiger not been on the scene. What Tiger did, he said, “was crazy.”

Bubba Watson’s Masters is still the major of the year, with the British a memorable second and U.S. Open third.

• Bunkers in the States compared with those at Lytham are really just sand covered fairways.

• Ernie loves the Rolling Stones, and after wins he often hops on the private plane and cranks, “Start Me Up.” Oh to have witnessed that victory flight on Sunday.

• Tiger may not be as lethal as he was, but he fights just as hard.

• Ernie or Phil? Who has had the better career? Phil’s been more dynamic, Ernie more complete. Phil’s won more on Tour, Ernie more around the globe. It’s close. The next five years determines second best in the Tiger era.

• You’d like to think Ernie would figure a way if he had to live without the anchored putter. The sense is that he and others will have to soon.

• Evian becomes the LPGA’s fifth major next year. The company that owns Evian, Danone, is investing serious money, and in these tough economic times the LPGA doesn’t hear too often the phrase, “investing serious money.” And like other participating sponsors Rolex and Lacoste, they’ll use the event to grow their brand in Asia. Joe Pesci, as Nicky Santoro in “Casino,” said it best, “It’s always the dollars.”

• What’s so admirable about so many of the great players in the game is their pride. Fabulously wealthy, Ernie still digs, grinds and eats dirt because he loves the sport and loves to compete. I hear people say that the Champions Tour will struggle because the big names will have made so much cash they won’t need to play. But it doesn’t matter how many real estate deals they do, in the end they’re golfers. Nothing charges them up like shooting 65 and winning tournaments. It’s what they do.

• I argued with a couple of colleagues three years ago that Ernie would win more majors. I always side with huge talent and hard work. That’s why I believe Scott will recover and win a major. If they do ban the anchored putter, though, I might revise that forecast if Scott struggles again on the greens.

Rory McIlroy’s slide is one of 2012’s great mysteries. Young, wealthy and single is usually a great place to be in life, but the focus sometimes isn’t as sharp as 32, hungry and married.

Michelle Wie, lacking flow and natural rhythm in her swing and putting, would do well to take a page from an old-school play book. Marlene Stewart-Streit is a former U.S. Amateur champion. After shooting 71 at age 69 alongside Rocco Mediate in a pro-am a few years ago, Rocco, absolutely flabbergasted at the performance, asked Marlene over a single malt scotch, “How in the hell do you do it? You didn’t miss a shot today!” Marlene put her glass on the bar, looked at Rocco with a smile and said, “I thought about only two things my whole life, tempo and balance. That’s it.”

• As kids we’d imitate our favorite Olympians. We loved high jumper Dick Fosbury and his famous Fosbury Flop. My mother would’ve liked to see us follow in the footsteps of the giant Russian weightlifter Vasily Alekseyev and pick something up, like the clothes strewn on the floor of our bedroom.

• Magnanimous in the claret jug ceremony, Els was empathetic to Scott and savvy enough to reach out to President Mandela. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that with this performance, Els cemented his status as not just a great player but a beloved champion.

• France gets the Ryder Cup in 2018, in part because their bid offered Versailles for parties. You think Louis XIV liked a good hot dog at the turn?