The Big Easy Breezes into California
Els practiced in the chipping area, then mosied over to the ninth green to hit a few putts, gliding with a posture that lends to his mystique as the Big Easy.
Right now, everything seems to be just that ' easy.
He was the No. 2 seed when the Accenture Match Play Championship got under way Wednesday, although no one has won more lately, not even Tiger Woods.
Els has won four of his first five tournaments worldwide, six of eight dating to October and 11 times over the last 14 months.
No sooner had a group of reporters surrounded him late Tuesday afternoon that a question arose about playing in the same tournament as Woods for the first time since the Tour Championship four months ago.
There was a time when Els would have rolled his eyes, or even bristled, at constant questions and comparisons to Woods. This time, he took it in stride, almost as though he was expecting the question.
``It doesn't make any difference this week,'' Els said, alluding to the unpredictable nature of 18-hole matches. ``It would be great if I can make the finals. That would be fun for the fans. But the probability of that happening is not very good.''
Woods couldn't agree more.
He usually tees it up on the first day of a tournament with the intention of winning. Expectations are a little different this week.
``You just try to advance,'' Woods said Tuesday. ``Whether you shoot 10 over or 10 under, whatever it takes to advance, that's the name of the game.''
It might as well be a lottery.
Consider the seeds of the last four winners: 24, 19, 55, 62.
Some players have shot 5 under par and lost. Others have shot 5 over par and won.
``There's definitely luck involved,'' Woods said. ``I've had my share of good fortune.''
He also has experienced some misery, and Woods isn't alone.
Twice in the four years of this World Golf Championship event, none of the top 10 seeds even made it to the weekend. Woods has reached the finals only once, in 2000, and he was smoked by Darren Clarke.
It all begins to unfold Wednesday at soggy La Costa Resort.
Overnight rain dumped 1 1/2 inches on the golf course, and more showers created small lakes all over La Costa.
Senior rules official Mike Shea said he anticipated the course draining in time for the first match Wednesday morning, although the fairways are too wet to mow and officials are leaning toward allowing players to lift, clean and place their golf balls in the fairway.
Changes to La Costa could eliminate some of the surprising results. The course is about 240 yards longer ' the 17th alone has been expanded by 85 yards and now measures 483 ' and the rough is thick, like a U.S. Open.
That figures to favor the big hitters, and par might be enough to win several holes.
Not that it matters.
Match play is all about having a lower score than the opponent, then moving on to the next day and hoping for the best.
Woods became the first No. 1 seed to lose in the opening round when he was beaten last year by Australian Peter O'Malley.
Els' luck hasn't been much better. He has never made it beyond the second round in his three trips to La Costa.
``I want to play as good as I can and hopefully get through tomorrow, then hopefully get through the next day,'' Els said. ``I'm going to play as well as I can, and if I get beat, then so what? Sometimes, there's nothing you can do.''
Unlike the NCAA basketball tournament, seeds mean nothing.
Woods plays Carl Pettersson, the 64th seed, who got into the $6 million tournament only when Vijay Singh withdrew with a rib injury. Pettersson was the first-round leader at the British Open, and he was runner-up to Woods at Torrey Pines two weeks ago.
Els plays Phil Tataurangi of New Zealand. Phil Mickelson (No. 3) plays Robert Karlsson of Sweden. Fourth-seeded Retief Goosen plays Jay Haas, 49, who qualified for his first WGC event. Haas hasn't been in match play since the '95 Ryder Cup at Oak Hill.
``I don't know what to expect,'' he said. ``I just know that I'm going to have to play my tail off to beat anybody.''
The other trick is figuring out who they are.
For the first time, there are more international players (35) than Americans (29). A dozen players are making their debut in the Match Play Championship.
All have a chance to win the $1,050,000 first prize, but half will be knocked out after playing only 18 holes or fewer.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Five-time Open champ Thomson passes at 88
MELBOURNE, Australia – Five-time Open Championship winner Peter Thomson has died, his family said Wednesday. He was 88.
Thomson had been suffering from Parkinson's disease for more than four years and died at his Melbourne home surrounded by family members on Wednesday morning.
Born on Aug, 23, 1929, Thomson was two months short of his 89th birthday.
The first Australian to win The Open Championship, Thomson went on to secure the title five times between 1954 and 1965, a record equaled only by Tom Watson.
On the American senior circuit he won nine times in 1985.
Thomson also served as president of the Australian PGA for 32 years, designing and building courses in Australia and around the world, helping establish the Asian Tour and working behind the scenes for the Odyssey House drug rehabilitation organization where he was chairman for five years.
He also wrote for newspapers and magazines for more than 60 years and was patron of the Australian Golf Writers Association.
In 1979 he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for his service to golf and in 2001 became an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for his contributions as a player and administrator and for community service.
Thomson is survived by his wife Mary, son Andrew and daughters Deirdre Baker, Pan Prendergast and Fiona Stanway, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced over the next few days.
Gaston leaves USC to become head coach at Texas A&M
In a major shakeup in the women’s college golf world, USC coach Andrea Gaston has accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Texas A&M.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gaston, who informed her players of her decision Monday night, has been one of the most successful coaches over the past two decades, leading the Trojans to three NCAA titles and producing five NCAA individual champions during her 22-year reign. They have finished in the top 5 at nationals in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive seasons.
This year was arguably Gaston’s most impressive coaching job. She returned last fall after undergoing treatment for uterine cancer, but a promising season was seemingly derailed after losing two stars to the pro ranks at the halfway point. Instead, she guided a team with four freshmen and a sophomore to the third seed in stroke play and a NCAA semifinals appearance. Of the four years that match play has been used in the women’s game, USC has advanced to the semifinals three times.
Texas A&M could use a coach with Gaston’s track record.
Last month the Aggies fired coach Trelle McCombs after 11 seasons following a third consecutive NCAA regional exit. A&M had won conference titles as recently as 2010 (Big 10) and 2015 (SEC), but this year the team finished 13th at SECs.
The head-coaching job at Southern Cal is one of the most sought-after in the country and will have no shortage of outside interest. If the Trojans look to promote internally, men’s assistant Justin Silverstein spent four years under Gaston and helped the team win the 2013 NCAA title.
Spieth 'blacked out' after Travelers holeout
CROMWELL, Conn. – It was perhaps the most-replayed shot (and celebration) of the year.
Jordan Spieth’s bunker holeout to win the Travelers Championship last year in a playoff over Daniel Berger nearly broke the Internet, as fans relived that raucous chest bump between Spieth and caddie Michael Greller after Spieth threw his wedge and Greller threw his rake.
Back in Connecticut to defend his title, Spieth admitted that he has watched replays of the scene dozens of times – even if, in the heat of the moment, he wasn’t exactly choreographing every move.
“Just that celebration in general, I blacked out,” Spieth said. “It drops and you just react. For me, I’ve had a few instances where I’ve been able to celebrate or react on a 72nd, 73rd hole, 74th hole, whatever it may be, and it just shows how much it means to us.”
Spieth and Greller’s celebration was so memorable that tournament officials later shipped the rake to Greller as a keepsake. It’s a memory that still draws a smile from the defending champ, whose split-second decision to go for a chest bump over another form of celebration provided an appropriate cap to a high-energy sequence of events.
“There’s been a lot of pretty bad celebrations on the PGA Tour. There’s been a lot of missed high-fives,” Spieth said. “I’ve been part of plenty of them. Pretty hard to miss when I’m going into Michael for a chest bump.”
Pregnant Lewis playing final events before break
Stacy Lewis will be looking to make the most of her last three starts of 2018 in her annual return to her collegiate roots this week.
Lewis, due to give birth to her first child on Nov. 3, will tee it up in Friday’s start to the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship at Pinnacle Country Club in Rogers, Arkansas. She won the NCAA individual women’s national title in 2007 while playing at the University of Arkansas. She is planning to play the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship next week and then the Marathon Classic two weeks after that before taking the rest of the year off to get ready for her baby’s arrival.
Lewis, 33, said she is beginning to feel the effects of being with child.
“Things have definitely gotten harder, I would say, over the last week or so, the heat of the summer and all that,” Lewis said Tuesday. “I'm actually excited. I'm looking forward to the break and being able to decorate the baby's room and do all that kind of stuff and to be a mom - just super excited.”
Lewis says she is managing her energy levels, but she is eager to compete.
“Taking a few more naps and resting a little bit more,” she said. “Other than that, the game's been pretty good.”
Lewis won the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship in 2014, and she was credited with an unofficial title in ’07, while still a senior at Arkansas. That event was reduced to 18 holes because of multiple rain delays. Lewis is a popular alumni still actively involved with the university.