Notes Els is Frequent Flier
He already has made at least a dozen transoceanic flights this year while competing in five of the six continents where golf is played.
But the Big Easy feels like the PGA Tour is making him wear a ball and chain.
'I am a world player, and they have to accept that,' Els said last month when his frustrations began to surface.
Even though Els was a European tour regular before coming to America in 1994, the PGA Tour requires what amounts to a permission slip for Els to play overseas.
PGA Tour members ordinarily are eligible for three releases to play overseas if they play a 15-event schedule. For every additional release, they are required to play five extra tour events.
'That's impossible for me,' said Els, who already has played in Thailand, Australia, Dubai, Germany and England this year, and returns to golf this week in Switzerland. 'It's the same old stuff. You give me this, I'll give you that. I've been playing that game for 10 years now, so I guess we'll keep playing it.'
Els could get unlimited releases by declaring the European tour -- and not the South African tour -- as his home tour, but then he would have to play 20 times a year on the PGA Tour, and that's too much golf for him to stay fresh.
Henry Hughes, chief of operations for the PGA Tour, says the tour tries to be flexible with the release, especially when a player wins a major and has financial opportunities (appearance money) overseas.
In fact, Els got nine releases last year for the 18 tour events he played. This year, he is expected to get 10 releases in exchange for 17 tour events.
'We don't put pressure on players,' Hughes said. 'It's just a matter of agreeing what we want them to play in exchange for what they want. Ernie being an international player, he needs a few more releases.'
Still, it seems odd that an international player has to make so many concessions just to be on the PGA Tour.
Els isn't happy with the situation, although he understands his role as someone who brings star power to an event. But while Els has hinted the last few years about playing more often on the PGA Tour, that probably won't happen now.
The Grand Slam of Golf was supposed to be played Dec. 3-4 at Poipu Bay on Kauai until a small problem came up -- two of the major champions had other plans.
PGA champion Vijay Singh decided to play in the Father-Son Challenge with son Qass in Orlando, Fla., on that same weekend. U.S. Open champion Retief Goosen already was committed to play an event in his native South Africa.
The easiest solution was to move the 36-hole tournament to Nov. 23-24, and make sure it wasn't a problem for Masters champion Phil Mickelson and British Open champion Todd Hamilton.
Moving the Grand Slam of Golf up a week now makes for a full week of golf in a never-ending season. It will be played the Tuesday-Wednesday before Thanksgiving, followed by the Skins Game that weekend.
OFF TO Q-SCHOOL
Paula Creamer is not waiting for a high school diploma before she goes after her LPGA Tour card. Golfweek magazine reports this week that Creamer has entered LPGA Q-school this fall.
Creamer, who tied for 13th at the U.S. Women's Open, will remain an amateur so she can compete in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship in Puerto Rico. She graduates high school in December.
If she gets her card, the magazine said Creamer will turn professional and play a full schedule next year. If she fails to earn status, she could either try to earn her card through six sponsor exemptions or go to college.
Even though Nick Price is a two-time PGA champion, the fourth major has long had a habit of getting in the way of his family priorities.
Price withdrew in 1991 when his wife gave birth to their first child. Now that his children are older, Price has skipped the last two PGAs because of a family vacation. And he offers no apologies.
'That's just the worst time the tournament could be for me,' Price said last week in Hartford. 'It's the only time we could really take a three-week break and be together. It's not asking much to take a week out of your year's schedule to spend an extra week on holiday with your kids. I wouldn't trade it for anything.'
Price said he missed not playing Oak Hill and Whistling Straits, 'but life is too short and it's too important.'
He has a lifetime exemption to the PGA, and Price said he won't always be on vacation in August. He figures his children (13, 11, 7) soon will reach an age when they would rather spend time with their friends.
'Until that day comes, and my kids want to go somewhere else on summer vacation, I'll continue doing it,' he said.
The Ladies European Tour changed its rules Tuesday to eliminate the 'female at birth' policy for its members, opening the way for Mianne Bagger to try to earn her card. Bagger, a 37-year-old from Denmark, had a sex reassignment surgery and played in the Women's Australian Open this year. The policy change allows Bagger to play in European events and go to Q-school. ... Ryan Moore hopes his next conquest will be the Men's World Amateur Championship. Moore, who already has won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links, NCAA Championship and Western Amateur, will join Spencer Levin and NCAA runner-up Lee Williams on the U.S. team that will play Oct. 28-31 in Puerto Rico. ... Jane Rah, a 13-year-old from Torrance, Calif., shot 76 to win the Safeway Classic Amateur Open and earn a spot in the field Sept. 17-19 at the LPGA's Safeway Classic in Portland.
STAT OF THE WEEK
Esteban Toledo has played in 27 of the 28 tournaments for which he has been eligible this year, missing only the Chrysler Classic of Tucson. He is 212th on the PGA Tour money list with $92,733.
'As long as I don't make doubles or triples, I can get the ball around and fool myself into thinking I'm doing better than I'm really doing.' -- Fred Couples.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.
Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign
A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.
Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.
Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.
And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”