Els Looking for Major Comeback

By Associated PressJuly 21, 2006, 4:00 pm
135th Open Championship HOYLAKE, England -- Ernie Els knew what he had to do before he struck the first shot Friday.
 
Go low -- real low -- and keep Tiger Woods in his sights at the British Open.
 
The Big Easy handled that part just fine, matching Woods' score in the second round and pulling within one stroke of the leader.
 
Ernie Els
Ernie Els is trying to secure his fourth career major championship title.
Now, Els has to show he can win a weekend showdown with the world's greatest player, a guy who's never, ever lost a major when running out front after 36 holes.
 
'I'm just happy to be in this position,' Els said. 'I really was trying to get into this final group. I haven't been in this position for a while.'
 
A while indeed.
 
Els hasn't seriously contended in a major since the 2004 PGA Championship, a drought that included some down time to recover from an-off-the-course injury. After finishing 34th at last year's British Open, he went tubing on the Mediterranean, blew out his left knee and underwent surgery that knocked him out for the rest of the season.
 
Only now does he feel fully recovered.
 
'It's been a tough 12 months, to be honest with you,' Els said. 'But I'm ready to play again and I'm in a really nice position now, so I'm looking forward to the weekend.'
 
It's a position the laid-back South African has been in plenty of times before, the last six majors notwithstanding.
 
Els has won three of golf's biggest titles, including the 2002 British Open in a playoff, but he's come up short a lot more than he's won, a litany of close-but-no-cigar finishes that hint at a player who's never quite fully lived up to his potential.
 
In 1995, he couldn't hold on to the 54-hole lead at Riviera in the PGA Championship. The following year, he finished two strokes behind Tom Lehman at the British Open. He was the runner-up in three straight majors in 2000, though only one of them (the Masters) was all that close; Woods ran away with the U.S. and British opens in a rout.
 
No year was more galling than 2004. He lost the Masters by one stroke when Phil Mickelson rolled in a birdie putt at the final hole. Els played in the final group at the U.S. Open but fell apart with an 80. Then came a playoff in the British Open, which Els lost to little-known Todd Hamilton. Finally, needing par to get into another playoff at the PGA, Els three-putted from 100 feet on the 72nd hole for a bogey.
 
Now, he's got another chance to win his fourth major.
 
'I've been a good player myself for a long time,' said Els, only 36 but a guy who came along when Greg Norman and Nick Price were top players and now contends against the likes of Woods and Mickelson. 'I've taken a bit of a dip in form and so forth, but I've worked hard to get back.'
 
Noticing a shift in the breezes blowing in from the Irish Sea, Els played a bit more conservative in the second round at Royal Liverpool than he did Thursday. His strategy worked out just fine -- a seven-birdie, no-bogey 65 that was probably more impressive in its own way than Woods' own round of 65, which included an improbable eagle from 209 yards and a 50-foot birdie putt.
 
Els didn't do anything that dramatic. None of his birdie putts was longer than 18 feet and he was especially efficient on the very reachable par 5s, making birdies of all four of them for an 11-under 133 that was one stroke higher than Woods.
 
Just what he had to do when he spotted Woods' number on the board at the start of the day.
 
'I saw the score and obviously he's a great player,' Els said. 'But if he's 12 under, there's birdies to be made out there. I had to get my share of them.'
 
Now, he's got to do it all over again on the weekend. Woods is the greatest closer in golf, going 6-0 in the majors when he's the one with the 36-hole lead. Els wants to be the one who ends that streak.
 
'I wasn't going to back down,' he said. 'I've played with Tiger so many times. Obviously, he's the greatest player of our generation and I've got to do my thing, play my game, play to my strengths and we'll shake hands at the end.'
 
Related Links:
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    Ciganda, S.Y. Kim share lead in Shanghai

    By Associated PressOctober 20, 2018, 9:28 am

    SHANGHAI - Carlota Ciganda of Spain shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to share the lead with Sei Young Kim after the third round of the LPGA Shanghai.

    Ciganda carded her fifth birdie of the day on the par-4 18th to finish tied with overnight leader Kim at 11-under 205. Kim shot a 71 with four bogeys and five birdies.

    Ciganda is attempting to win her third LPGA title and first since the 2016 season, when she won two tournaments in a one-month span. Kim is chasing her eighth career LPGA win and second title of the 2018 season.

    ''I want to win because I didn't win last year,'' Ciganda said. ''I love playing in Asia. It's good for long hitters, playing quite long, so I'm quite comfortable.''


    Full-field scores from the Buick LPGA Shanghai


    Angel Yin also birdied the final hole for a 68 and was a further stroke back with Brittany Altomare (69), Danielle Kang (71) and Ariya Jutanugarn (71).

    Yin and Altomare have yet to break through for their first LPGA win. A win in Shanghai would make either player the ninth first-time winner of the 2018 season, which would tie 2016 for the third highest number of first-time winners in a season in LPGA history.

    ''I love competing,'' Yin said. ''That's why I'm playing, right? I'm excited to be in contention again going into Sunday.''

    Local favorite Yu Liu was seventh after offsetting a lone bogey with four birdies for a 69.

    Paula Creamer also shot a 69 and shared eighth at 8 under with Minjee Lee (70) and Bronte Law (71).

    The tournament is the second of five being played in South Korea, Japan, China and Taiwan in the LPGA's annual Asian swing.

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    Koepka's pursuers have no illusions about catching him

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:50 am

    Ahead by four, wielding his driver like Thor's hammer, Brooks Koepka is 18 holes from his third victory in five months and his first ascent to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

    The tournament isn't over. No one is handing him the trophy and updating the OWGR website just yet. But it will likely take some combination of a meltdown and low round from someone in the chase pack to prevent a Koepka coronation Sunday in South Korea.

    Thirteen under for the week, the three-time major champion will start the final round four shots ahead of his playing partners, Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, and five ahead of six more players at minus-8.

    As is his nature, Poulter figures to be undaunted. The 42-year-old is fresh off a Sunday singles victory over Dustin Johnson at the Ryder Cup and in the midst of a career renaissance, having broken a five-year winless drought earlier this year. In one sense, it's Europe vs. the United States again, but this isn't match play, and Koepka, a guy who doesn't need a head start, has spotted himself a four-shot advantage.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    "Tomorrow I'm going to need to make a few birdies. Obviously Brooks is in cruise control right now and obviously going to need a shoot a low one," Poulter conceded. "Do what I'm doing, just enjoy [it]. Obviously try and make as many birdies as I can and see how close we get."

    Perez, in the group at 8 under par, isn't giving up, but like Poulter, he's aware of the reality of his situation.

    "We're chasing Brooks, who of course obviously is playing phenomenally," he said. "A lot of the long hitters now when they get in contention, they hit that driver and they're really hard to catch. I'm not worried about it too much. It's going to be harder for me tomorrow than him, so I'm going to try and go out and just do my thing, hit some shots, hopefully hit some close and make some putts and we'll see. I don't expect him to come backwards, but hopefully I can try to go catch him."

    Gary Woodland, also 8 under par, summed up the predicament best when he alluded to Koepka's perhaps advantageously aloof demeanor.

    "You obviously want to get off to a good start and put pressure on him as soon as you can," he said. "You know, Brooks doesn't seem like he cares too much, and he's playing so good, so you're going to have to go out and post a number."

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    Koepka has his chance 'to earn' his way to No. 1

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 8:09 am

    There won't need to be any wonky math involved. He won't have to settle for finally reaching the the top via some kind of mathematical reset while he's sitting at home on the couch (or more likely working out in the gym).

    No, Brooks Koepka on Sunday in South Korea will have a chance to ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking the way every player would most want to - with a victory.

    On the strength of a bogey-free round of 5-under 67 Saturday, Koepka will enter the final round of the CJ Cup four clear of Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy, with six more players five behind.

    The tournament is Koepka's to lose, and so too is the No. 1 ranking. So long as Justin Thomas doesn't somehow defend his title from 12 shots back, Koepka can supplant Dustin Johnson atop the rankings with a win or a solo second-place finish.


    Full-field scores from the CJ Cup

    CJ Cup: Articles, photos and videos


    "It was something I wanted to do. I always wanted to become World No. 1 in a week that I was playing," Koepka said Saturday. "I thought like I could really earn it and not have a week off where it just so happens that you bump up. No, it would be very special, and to do it here would be nice and hopefully get to world No. 1 and cap it off with a win, I don't think there would be much better."

    It would be a fitting end to this breakthrough year for Koepka, who successfully defended his U.S. Open title and then added his third major victory at the PGA Championship en route to claiming the PGA Tour's Player of the Year Award. Oddly enough, considering his status a three-time major winner and an impending No. 1, this would be Koepka's fifth Tour victory but only his second in a non-major; his only regular Tour win to date was his first, at the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

    "My confidence has always been pretty high," Koepka said. "Anytime you can win three majors you're going to be feeling pretty good about yourself. To do what I've done over the last two years has been special, but I'm looking to build on that."

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    Koepka ahead by four, with No. 1 ranking in his grasp

    By Nick MentaOctober 20, 2018, 5:48 am

    Following a closing birdie and a third-round 67 at Nine Bridges, Brooks Koepka will take a four-shot lead over Ian Poulter and Scott Piercy into final round of the CJ Cup. Here's how Koepka separated himself from the field in South Korea.

    Leaderboard: Koepka (-13), Piercy (-9), Poulter (-9), Rafa Cabrera Bello (-8), Cameron Smith (-8), Jaime Lovemark (-8), Pat Perez (-8), Gary Woodland (-8), Chez Reavie (-8)

    What it means: Koepka is in search of his fifth PGA Tour victory and – believe it or not – only his second non-major. The three-time major champion’s only other win came all the way back in February 2015, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. One off the lead to start the day, Koepka opened with eight straight pars and birdied Nos. 9 and 10 to take the outright lead at 10 under par. He added three more circles at 14, 17 and 18 to close out a bogey-free round of 5 under and go ahead by ahead by four. He'll be chased on Sunday by Piercy, a four-time PGA Tour winner who won the Zurich Classic earlier this year alongside Billy Horschel, and by Poulter, who ended a five-year worldwide winless drought back in April and is coming off a 2-2 performance at the Ryder Cup, with a Sunday singles victory over current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Speaking of which, unless Justin Thomas finds a way to win this tournament from 12 back, Koepka will for the first time ascend to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking with a win or a solo second-place finish.

    Round of the day: After contending last week at the CIMB, Shubankhar Sharma rebounded from opening rounds of 74 and 75 with a nine-birdie, 8-under 64 to move up 45 spots into a tie for 26th through 54 holes.

    Best of the rest: Four players – Rafa Cabrera Bello, Ted Potter Jr., Jason Day and Brendan Steele – shot 7-under 65 Saturday. Day played his first four holes in 2 over and his final 14 in 9 under.

    Biggest disappointment: The only previous winner of this event, world No. 4 Justin Thomas entered the week with a chance to take back the No. 1 ranking with a successful title defense. But rounds of 73-70-72 have him 1 under for the week. Thomas played his back nine in 1 over Saturday with six pars, a birdie, a quadruple bogey and a closing eagle.

    Shot of the day: Koepka flying his tee shot 330 yards to the front edge of the green at the par-4 14th and going on to two-putt for birdie.