Els best golf is when hes not at a tournament

By Doug FergusonJuly 8, 2009, 4:00 pm
2009 European Tour LUSS, Scotland ' Ernie Els arrived at Loch Lomond having played some of his best golf of the year, including one round when he made seven birdies and three eagles to win the top prize.
Too bad it didnt count.
Stunned by missing the cut in the U.S. Open, the Big Easy retreated to his home outside London and played social golf with friends the last few weeks. It included that blockbuster round at Queenwood that allowed him to beat three friends, one of them the club champion.
I wish I could bring my social golf on to the tournament schedule, Els said Wednesday.
He gets back to tournament play at the Scottish Open, the first of two important weeks for the 39-year-old South African. Els has won twice at Loch Lomond, one of his favorite tournaments on the European Tour schedule. He has finished in the top three five times at the British Open this decade, including his 2002 victory at Muirfield.
What to expect? Not even he is sure.
Form-wise, professionally, hasnt been a great year, Els said. You guys know that. I know that. But this is a nice time of the year for me, especially with the Open coming up and this week, so looking to turn things around.
The Barclays Scottish Open is the final tournament before the British Open at Turnberry, although most dont classify it as a tuneup.
Loch Lomond is an American-styled course along the shores of a splendid lake north of Glasgow. The turf is soft and green, with fairways lined by trees and water in play on several holes, obstacles that are rare in links golf.
Even so, it has attracted another strong field.
Graeme McDowell is the defending champion, and among those competing are a solid contingent of U.S. tour regulars ' Geoff Ogilvy, Camilo Villegas, Brian Gay, Nick Watney, Rory Sabbatini and Boo Weekley, who made this stunning observation about his first impression of Loch Lomond when he played two years ago.
I take it yall get a lot of rain over here, he said.
It hasnt exactly been pouring victories for Els no matter where he travels.
Hes gone 36 tournaments since his last victory on the PGA Tour in March 2008 at the Honda Classic. He says his desire has never been stronger, even for a guy who has been going at it for 20 years.
Then again, that might be the problem.
In some ways, Ive been searching maybe a little too much for the perfect swing, the perfect putting stroke, the perfect driving, stuff like that, Els said. And maybe Im not different than any other player. But I feel like I definitely have the drive and the desire to win more tournaments, and thats why Im still trying. I dont know when that will ever go. If it does, Ill probably walk away.
But right now, Im still very, very dedicated to my sport and trying to win golf tournaments.
It would be easy to suggest that Els is more distracted at this stage in his career. He is doing is part to promote awareness for autism since disclosing last year that his 6-year-old son, Ben, has the illness. His golf course design business is growing, along with his South African wines. Still, golf remains his priority.
Why do I still love it? I cant answer that, Els said. Its been in my blood. Its been what Ive always done. Its just always been there, and I still try and improve. I still watch golf even on television, so its a mad drug.
Colin Montgomerie is still trying, too, even if he winced when reminded that it has been 10 years since he won the Scottish Open. Perhaps an even more painful reminder is that a week later, a Scot won the British Open ' Paul Lawrie.
The 46-year-old Montgomerie has not had a top 10 in the last calendar year, 25 starts dating to the French Open a year ago. Consumed with details as European captain of the 2010 Ryder Cup, he saw a glimmer of hope last week in France when he tied for 13th. That enabled him to move up to No. 200 in the world ranking.
Ten years ago, he still harbored hopes of being No. 1 in the world.
My best year, with six wins, Montgomerie said of the 99 season. And Id love to emulate something like that. But as you all probably know, I havent had a top 10 for a year now in Europe, and its about time that changed. So we look forward to trying to change it here.
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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

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    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    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.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    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.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    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.”

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    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.