Notes Els Swings Over to Harmon

By Associated PressApril 8, 2008, 4:00 pm
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ernie Els hated making the phone call. Still, he felt a coaching change was the only way to make some needed improvements in his game.
After working with David Leadbetter since 1990, the Big Easy said Tuesday he switched to Butch Harmon as his swing coach because he wanted to get a different feel, get different words coming toward me.
The timing of the move was somewhat curious, because Els won the Honda Classic just over a month ago. But he decided Harmon could help smooth out some of the rough spots in his swing heading into the first major of the year, the Masters.
Hes obviously had a lot of success with a lot of players, and I love the way he changes peoples games, Els said after a practice round at Augusta National. Ive seen it with Stewart Cink and Ive seen it with Justin Leonard and a lot of other players. I like the way they swing.
But to sign on with Harmon, Els had to make the difficult step of breaking up with Leadbetter, who helped craft a swing that won two U.S. Opens and a British Open. The news was delivered in an emotional phone call.
David Leadbetter is a very good friend of mine. Hes been a friend of mine for a very long time, Els said. Obviously its tough breaking up with a guy like Lead, but hell be a friend of mine forever.
Asked what he was looking to change, Els pointed to improving his posture, shortening his backswing and getting the upper and lower parts of his body more in rhythm.
My hips were really turning too much and my shoulder, everything was kind of collapsing at the top, he said. Im quite a flexible guy, but swinging that long, I get out of sync with my lower body and upper, so I needed to stabilize that and shorten my backswing a little bit, and really get the club out in front of me.
Els is already starting to notice some improvement, though he concedes its too early in the process to know how much impact it will have at Augusta.
Hey, it could go either way, he said. Hopefully I can be right on Thursday and really trust the swing and trust my different moves. Its not stuff thats totally foreign to me. Its going to look like my normal swing. Its just in a little different position.
Els had been contemplating a change since late last season. Even after winning the Honda Classic, he stuck with his plan to switch to Harmon, who has worked with everyone from Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson.
Although I won, I still felt I wasnt totally under control of the golf ball, and thats not a great feeling to have, Els said. So I felt, hey, lets start fresh and maybe get a different look and go from there.
Phil Mickelson loves to play the Par 3 Contest, feeling the raucous event is a great way to relieve stress on the eve of the real tournament.
Tiger Woods? Not such a fan.
Its changed over the years, he said. It used to be, I thought it was a lot of fun to play. But now it is a little bit distracting to get ready and be ready for the tournament.
The Par 3 Contest, which began in 1960, is one of the Masters quaint traditions, a fun little competition on Wednesday afternoon that allows players to show off their lighter sides. The younger players bring their kids' nothings cuter than seeing a 6-year-old in those white coveralls the caddies wear'and fans love to see the best in the world trying to ace every hole.
The kids part is what makes it so appealing to Mickelson, who loves having his three young children tag along.
Its a great way to relieve some of the stress or pressure you feel heading into a major, Mickelson said. Guys really have fun on those nine holes and someone like myself, who has little children who caddie, we as parents look back on those pictures and those memories and sharing that time together.
Padraig Harrington feels the lighthearted romp actually helps his game heading into the years first major.
Even though there is a lot going on, you have to get into your focus over each shot, and it gives you a little bit of practice on your wedge play and the pace of the greens and holing out your 4-footers, he said. I wouldnt want to miss it.
Of course, some believe theres a dark side to the fun. Since the Par 3 began in 1960, no ones ever won it and the Masters in the same year, and Vijay Singh is still the only player to get his green jacket after winning the Par 3, in 1994'he took the Masters in 2000.
No, Ben Crenshaw doesnt count. His win in the 1987 Par 3 was eight years before the 1995 Masters, but his 1984 Masters title trumps all.
Harrington is as superstitious as the next guy, though he does have a little different take.
Ill be playing the Par 3 competition and trying to win it again, hoping that three times might be the charm, Harrington, who won the contest in 2003 and 2004. I believe if you win it twice, youre bound to win the actual event.
Mickelson doesnt buy the Par 3 jinx.
Id love to be the first to win them both, but I have just never had a chance to win the Par 3, he said. My caddie (daughter Sophia Isabel) gave me some terrible reads last year. Of course, she was only 5. But still.
Retief Goosen has only one thing on his mind before he tees off at the Masters: Get to the course on time.
Goosen rents a house near Augusta National, but he still gets stuck in traffic that overwhelms this rather sleepy Southern city during Masters week.
Im about a mile away, he said, and it takes you 45 minutes to get here.
Ernie Els revealed last month that his 5-year-old son suffers from autism. Since then, the response has been overwhelming.
Im not sure what the number of e-mails weve been getting, but its a book, Els said. Its thousands of e-mails.
Els and his wife coped privately with their son Bens diagnosis until the Big Easy showed up at a tournament last month with Autism Speaks on his golf bag.
A lot of people keep it very private and dont want to talk about it, but if it doesnt get out, nobody really gets aware of this big problem, Els said. Its a serious problem. And its going to affect a lot of people down the line, a lot of young parents, and obviously young kids.
Autism is a disorder that impairs a persons ability to communicate and relate to others. Researchers have yet to determine the cause or a cure.
Els is glad he spoke out and showed others that no one, no matter how rich or famous, is immune to the problem.
We need to get moving forward and working on a cure, he said. Basically, we need to get people to talk about it a little bit more.
During a lunchtime ceremony at the club, Ping presented Angel Cabrera with an 18-karat gold putter, a replica of the one he used to win the U.S. Open at Oakmont last year. Its worth about $15,000. There are 49 foreign-born players in the tournament, making up more than half the 94-player field. For the second year in a row, Arnold Palmer will hit a ceremonial tee shot Thursday morning to start the tournament. Jose Maria Olazabal looks a little strange in a sport that relies heavily on sponsors to pay the bills. Coming back from an injury, the two-time Masters champion practiced Tuesday with a blank cap and a bag that was devoid of sponsorship logos.
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    List takes Thomas to 18 putting with a wedge

    By Rex HoggardMarch 21, 2018, 7:57 pm

    AUSTIN, Texas – As he walked off the sixth tee on Wednesday at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Luke List “swiped” his putter into what he thought was a bush. It was a wall.

    List’s putter bent slightly, which meant he wasn’t allowed to employ it the rest of the round. Using a wedge to putt, he lost his opening-day match to Justin Thomas, 2 down.

    “Stupid on my part,” List said. “I'll get the club fixed and go on to my next two matches.”

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Full bracket | Scoring | Group standings

    WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Articles, photos and videos

    Despite his putting disadvantage, List pushed Thomas to the 18th hole thanks to birdies at Nos. 13, 15 and 16, which included a chip-in from 18 feet at 15. Thomas was 3 up with four holes to play and managed to birdie the last, but it was far from stress-free.

    “I was thinking about it, how bad that would hurt if I couldn't get it done,” Thomas said. “He hit some great putts and he made some good ones when he needed to.”

    The situation also prompted Thomas to change his strategy on the greens, with not nearly as many conceded putts as normal.

    “He putted probably two or three putts I wouldn't have made him putt with a putter,” Thomas said. “[No. 13] was a short putt he's probably going to make. It had a lot of break. But 12, that putt was 2 feet straight uphill. But I was like he's got a wedge, so I'm going to make him putt it.”

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    Group standings at WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

    By Golf Channel DigitalMarch 21, 2018, 7:45 pm

    Here are the group standings for pool play at the 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship in Austin, Texas. The player with the most points in each pool advanced to Saturday's Round of 16 in Austin, Texas. Click here for scoring and click here for the bracket.

    Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 Group 4
    (1) D. Johnson (2) J. Thomas: 1-0-0 (3) J. Rahm (4) J. Spieth
    (32) K. Kisner (21) F. Molinari: 1-0-0 (28) K. Aphibarnrat (19) P. Reed
    (38) A. Hadwin
    (48) P. Kizzire: 0-1-0 (43) C. Reavie (34) H. Li
    (52) B. Wiesberger
    (60) L. List: 0-1-0 (63) K. Bradley (49) C. Schwartzel
    Group 5 Group 6 Group 7 Group 8
    (5) H. Matsuyama: 1-0-0 (6) R. McIlroy (7) S. Garcia (8) J. Day
    (30) P. Cantlay: 0-1-0
    (18) B. Harman (20) X. Schauffele (25) L. Oosthuizen
    (46) C. Smith: 1-0-0 (44) J. Vegas (41) D. Frittelli (42) J. Dufner
    (53) Y. Miyazato: 0-1-0 (51) P. Uihlein (62) S. Sharma (56) J. Hahn
    Group 9 Group 10 Group 11 Group 12
    (9) T. Fleetwood (10) P. Casey (11) M. Leishman (12) T. Hatton: 1-0-0
    (26) D. Berger (31) M. Fitzpatrick (23) B. Grace (22) C. Hoffman: 0-1-0
    (33) K. Chappell (45) K. Stanley (35) B. Watson (36) B. Steele: 1-0-0
    (58) I. Poulter (51) R. Henley (64) J. Suri (55) A. Levy: 0-1-0
    Group 13 Group 14 Group 15 Group 16
    (13) A. Noren: 1-0-0 (14) P. Mickelson (15) P. Perez: 0-1-0 (16) M. Kuchar
    (29) T. Finau (17) R. Cabrera Bello (24) G. Woodland: 0-1-0 (27) R. Fisher
    (39) T. Pieters (40) S. Kodaira (37) W. Simpson: 0-1-0 (47) Y. Ikeda
    (61) K. Na: 0-1-0 (59) C. Howell III (50) S.W. Kim: 0-1-0 (54) Z. Johnson
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    Hot Seat: The driver is burning Tiger

    By Randall MellMarch 21, 2018, 6:51 pm

    The men’s first major championship of the year is two weeks away, the women’s just a week away.

    Here’s our Hot Seat lineup with the approach of the Masters and the ANA Inspiration in mind:

    Smoking carbon composites – Tiger Woods

    Woods is the betting favorite to win the Masters in most sportsbooks, and while his game is coming together quickly, he won’t be the experts’ pick without getting his driver under control.

    The driver looks like the last piece Woods needs to once more become the favorite wherever he goes.

    Right now, though, there’s an open wound that needs to be cauterized before he heads to Augusta National.

    That double-cross Woods blew into someone’s backyard along the 16th hole Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational came from a reservoir of uncertainty that his driver continues to create. 

    Woods has come a long way with his driver. When he pulls it out of the bag, it isn’t like he’s ripping a bandage off anymore, not the way it was three and four years ago. Still, he doesn’t pull that club with the same relish Rory McIlroy does, or Dustin Johnson and Jason Day, for that matter. Physically and psychologically, they’ve got an advantage on him until he does. 

    Woods did not qualify for this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, so he’s got extra time to address his biggest shortcoming.

    “Project No. 1 over the next two weeks is going to be the driver,” Golf Channel’s Notah Begay said earlier this week. “Tiger has to focus in on trying to find some way to navigate Augusta National with the driver, because it’s a course that’s going to force you to hit driver.”

    Dustin Johnson at the 2018 WGC-Mexico Championship.

    Smoldering Tex Mex Tango – Dustin Johnson

    The world No. 1 is playing just fine enough since his victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at year’s start. He’s just been overshadowed by the brilliance of a lot of fellow stars.

    With McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas all winning in the last month, with Woods stepping up his game, Johnson has been quietly toiling toward the Masters.

    Johnson has won 10 times since Woods' last victory, and yet Woods is the 8-to-1 favorite to win the Masters.

    Johnson, McIlroy and Thomas are listed at 10-to-1 by the Westgate Las Vegas SportsBook.

    It doesn’t rankle Johnson.

    “It’s fine with me,” he said Tuesday. “He’s playing pretty well.”

    Even as the defending champ this week at the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, Texas, Johnson isn’t center stage, not with McIlroy marching into town off his dominant finish at the API.

    Flying relatively under the radar might seem like a comfortable position for a world No. 1, but he won’t stay atop the world rankings for long flying under the radar.

    Shanshan Feng during Round 2 at the 2017 Japan Classic.

    Rolex Ranking Roast – Shanshan Feng

    The women’s Rolex world No. 1 enters the week at the Kia Classic trying to hold off a strong field with the ANA Inspiration looming next week.

    The top seven players in the world rankings, and 11 of the top 12, are at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, California.

    Feng has quietly reigned atop the world rankings for 19 consecutive weeks, holding off bids to overtake her by No. 2 Lexi Thompson, No. 3 So Yeon Ryu and No. 4 Sung Hyun Park.

    They’ve all been close enough in world ranking average this year to take the top spot, but Feng isn’t backing down. She’s winless so far this this year, but she has finished fifth or better in two of her three starts.

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    Match-by-match: 2018 WGC-Dell Technologies, Day 1

    By Will GrayMarch 21, 2018, 6:32 pm

    Here is how things played out on Day 1 of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as 64 players take on Austin Country Club with hopes of advancing out of pool play:

    Group 2: (2) Justin Thomas def. (60) Luke List, 2 up: In perhaps the most entertaining match of the morning, Thomas edged List in a rematch of last month's Honda Classic playoff despite List spending much of the round putting with a wedge after bending his putter. Thomas was 3 up with four to play before List pushed the match the distance.

    Group 2: (21) Francesco Molinari def. (48) Patton Kizzire, 3 and 1: Molinari turned a tight match into a victory thanks to a few timely errors from Kizzire. Pars on Nos. 14 and 17 were good enough to win the hole for Molinari, with the latter sealing his victory and moving him a step closer to a potential winner-take-all battle with Thomas on Friday.

    Group 4: (4) Jordan Spieth def. (49) Charl Schwartzel, 2 and 1: The top seed in the group scored an early point in a battle between former Masters champs. Spieth never trailed and took control of the match with three straight wins on Nos. 12-14.

    Group 4: (19) Patrick Reed def. (34) Haotong Li, 3 and 2: Reed's much-anticipated match with Spieth is still two days away, but he dispatched of Li in his opener by winning the opening hole and never trailing the rest of the way. Li got to within one of Reed after 10 holes but the American won three of the next five to separate.

    Group 5: (5) Hideki Matsuyama def. (53) Yusaku Miyazato, 2 and 1: This all-Japanese battle went to the group's top seed, as Matsuyama poured in a birdie on the par-3 17th to close out the match. Miyazato got off to a strong start, holding a 2-up lead through six holes, before Matsuyama turned the tables with two birdies over the next three holes.

    Group 5: (46) Cameron Smith def. (30) Patrick Cantlay, 2 up: Smith never trailed in the match, but it turned into a closer contest than it appeared when the Aussie held a 3-up lead with four holes to play. Uihlein won the next two holes, but he couldn't get any closer as Smith earned a critical victory as he looks to earn a Masters spot by staying in the top 50 in the world rankings after this week.

    Group 8: (8) Jason Day def. (56) James Hahn, 4 and 2: Day is a former winner of this event, and he separated from Hahn on the back nine to score an early point. Hahn offered a concession on No. 13 to fall 3 down, then conceded again on No. 16 to close the match.

    Group 9: (58) Ian Poulter def. (9) Tommy Fleetwood, 3 and 2: The match between Englishman went to the veteran, as Poulter took his putter from the 2012 Ryder Cup out of the closet and put it to quick use. Fleetwood won only two holes during the match, none after the eighth hole, and he now faces the prospect of early elimination as the group's top seed.

    Group 9: (33) Kevin Chappell def. (26) Daniel Berger, 3 and 2: Chappell and Berger were Presidents Cup teammates in the fall, but the opener went to Chappell. Berger won the 13th hole to draw all square, but Chappell reeled off three straight birdies on Nos. 14-16 in response to close out the match.

    Group 12: (12) Tyrrell Hatton def. (55) Alexander Levy, 3 and 2: Hatton won the opening hole with a par and never trailed the rest of the way. Levy's win on the eighth hole proved to be his only victory of the day, as Hatton barely had to break a sweat after building a 3-up lead through five holes.

    Group 12: (36) Brendan Steele def. (22) Charley Hoffman, 1 up: Steele never trailed in the match and at one point held a 4-up lead, but coming down the stretch it took everything he had to keep Hoffman at bay. Hoffman won four in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17, but a par on the final hole was enough to give Steele the full point.

    Group 13: (61) Kevin Na def. (13) Alex Noren, 4 and 2: The biggest upset from the early matches came here, as Na turned a close contest into a blowout. The two men were all square after 11 holes, but Na won three of the next four and then closed out the match when Noren conceded on the par-5 16th.

    Group 13: (29) Tony Finau def. (39) Thomas Pieters, 2 and 1: Two of the longest hitters in the field squared off in this tilt, with Finau notching a full point despite losing two of the first three holes. The American birdied the 15th to take a 2-up lead, then closed out Pieters with a par on the 17th hole.

    Group 15: (15) Pat Perez vs. (50) Si Woo Kim, halved: The first match of the day ended up in a draw, as the top seed rallied from a deficit to salvage half a point. Kim won three of the first six holes and held a 3-up lead with seven holes to go, but Perez fought back with four birdies over the next six holes to draw even.

    Group 15: (24) Gary Woodland vs. (37) Webb Simpson, halved: This group remains entirely up for grabs since nothing was decided on the opening day. Woodland took a 3-up lead at the turn, but Simpson rallied by winning four of the next seven holes, including a birdie on No. 17 that brought him back to all square for the first time since the third hole.