Els hopeful of a resurgence at Torrey

By Doug FergusonJanuary 25, 2012, 11:27 pm

SAN DIEGO - Ernie Els was walking to the practice range Wednesday at Torrey Pines when he was stopped by a security guard who has not spent much time around golf tournaments.

“Are you a professional?” the guard asked him.

This is new territory for Els, a three-time major champion and former No. 1 in the world.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Big Easy starts a new season without assurances that he will be at the Masters. He might not be eligible for two World Golf Championships over the next six weeks.

And for the first time since he cares to remember, Els finds himself looking at the world ranking. He is at No. 57, and that’s after getting a boost from a runner-up finish last week at the Volvo Champions event in South Africa.

“I look at it now,” Els said. “I never used to. When you’re comfortably in the top 10, top 20, you don’t look at these things. Now, I’m on the other side of the wheel. I’ve got to play myself into events. I’ve got to get into the Masters, into Doral, into the Match Play. And that’s fine with me. And if I don’t get in, that’s fine with me.

“I feel like I’m going to have a good year,” he said. “I feel good about it.”

For what he’s trying to accomplish, being at the Farmers Insurance Open might seem like a peculiar choice.

Most of golf’s biggest stars are halfway around the world in Abu Dhabi this week, which includes Tiger Woods, whose seven wins at Torrey Pines includes the 2008 U.S. Open. The top four players in the world also are in the Middle East - Luke Donald, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy and Martin Kaymer - meaning there figures to be more world ranking points.

Torrey Pines offers a deeper field, yet only one of the top 10 in Dustin Johnson. Phil Mickelson is the biggest star this week at No. 15 in the world, no longer having to share the state with Woods in his hometown.

Among the PGA Tour players who waited until the fourth week to make their 2012 debut are Hunter Mahan, Geoff Ogilvy and Rickie Fowler, who starts his third full year still looking for his first tour win.

Mickelson narrowly made the cut last week in the Humana Challenge, and now feels ready to go in a tournament he has won three times, but not in the 10 years since his old friend Rees Jones beefed up the South Course.

A year ago, Mickelson needed an eagle on the par-5 18th to force a playoff, and he had his caddie tend the flag from 72 yards away as Mickelson tried to hole out with a sand wedge. It was close. It was an exciting moment. But he missed.

“I feel like after having one week under my belt and hopefully ironing out some of the kinks, I think I’m ready to get myself back in it on the weekend,” Mickelson said. “That’s certainly the goal.”

Els has been traveling the world since he first left South Africa as a teenager to turn pro, and he was thinking about it again. His original plan was to start in Hawaii at the Sony Open, head back to South Africa, and perhaps fly up to Middle East to play three tournaments in Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Dubai, where he said he had a good offer.

“The Middle East made the most sense,” he said. “There are stronger fields, more points, and I need the points to get into the top 50 and all that. But I’ve made my decision. I’ve done that for so many years. It’s important for me to be home now. And if I play well here, I’ll still get into the top 50.”

He has three more weeks to stay in the top 65 and get into the Match Play Championship (Mickelson already has said he is not playing Match Play for a family vacation). Els might even add Pebble Beach if the forecast is for a blue sky, bright sun and splendid ocean views, such as the case at Torrey Pines.

Els, at least, has some momentum on his side.

He closed with a 67 at Fancourt, site of the 2003 Presidents Cup, and lost in a three-way playoff won by Branden Grace, who captured his second straight European Tour event. Grace is only the latest player influenced by Els, taking part in his junior foundation, just as Louis Oosthuizen did before him.

“He’s a hell of a player, that kid,” Els said. “He’s got a lot of confidence. But it was good for me to be there. I’m working on a couple of things. The first three rounds, I was kind of loosening up. The final round I played well. It’s nice to get going a bit.”

Mickelson feels the same way. It’s alarming to see him out of the top 10, though Mickelson has only one win in his last 34 starts on the PGA Tour dating to his Masters win in 2010.

Lefty feels as if he’s a better player than he was two years ago, though he paused briefly knowing that the results don’t back that up. He attributes that mainly to his putting. Mickelson tried a belly putter late last season, but has ditched that to a convention putter.

“There’s no easy short cut in putting,” he said. “No matter what method you use, you still have to see the line and match it up with the proper speed. I think that for me, I was looking for a shortcut with the belly putter.”

He likes the work he has put in during his two-month offseason, going back to a blade putter and his old stroke. And he has high expectations during this stretch of five straight events on the West Coast, all at courses where he has won before.

“In the past, I’ve had some success here,” he said. “So certainly, I expect to win. If not, I don’t want to say it’s a failure, but it certainly wouldn’t be what I’m looking for or expect.

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Watch: Pieters snaps club ... around his neck

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 1:19 pm

After opening in 3-over 75, Thomas Pieters was in no mood for more poor play on Friday.

Unfortunately for Pieters, he bogeyed two of his first three holes in the second round of the BMW PGA Championship and then didn't like his second shot at the par-5 fourth.

Someone - or some thing - had to pay, and an innocent iron bore the brunt of Pieters' anger.

Pieters made par on the hole, but at 5 over for the tournament, he was five shots off the cut line.

It's not the first time a club has faced Pieters' wrath. 

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Woods would 'love' to see Tour allow shorts

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:59 pm

Players on the European Tour are allowed to wear shorts during practices and pro-ams.

The PGA of America permitted players to show some leg while prepping for last year’s PGA Championship.

Tiger Woods would like to see the PGA Tour follow suit.

"I would love it," he said Thursday in a Facebook Live with Bridgestone Golf. "We play in some of the hottest climates on the planet. We usually travel with the sun, and a lot of our events are played in the summer, and then on top of that when we have the winter months here a lot of the guys go down to South Africa and Australia where it's summer down there.

"It would be nice to wear shorts. Even with my little chicken legs, I still would like to wear shorts."

Caddies are currently allowed to wear shorts on Tour, during events.

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Feasting again: McIlroy shoots 65 to lead BMW PGA

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 12:04 pm

Updated at 9:42 a.m. ET

Rory McIlroy made seven birdies and no bogeys on Friday for a 7-under 65 and the second-round lead at the BMW PGA Championship.

After opening in 67, McIlroy was among the early groups out on Day 2 at Wentworth Club. He made three birdies and no bogeys on the par-35 front nine on Friday, and then went on a run after the turn.

McIlroy made four consecutive birdies, beginning at the par-5 12th. That got him to 12 under, overall, and gave him a clear advantage over the field. With two closing par-5s, a very low number was in sight. But, as he did on Day 1, McIlroy finished par-par.

"I've made four pars there [on 17 and 18] when I really should be making at least two birdies, but I played the other par-5s well," McIlroy said. "It all balances itself out."

Full-field scores from the BMW PGA Championship

McIlroy has made 14 birdies and two bogeys through two rounds. At 12 under, he has a three-stroke lead over Sam Horsfield.

"The work has paid off, to some degree," McIlroy said of his practice with swing coach Michael Bannon. "I still feel like I'm hitting some loose shots out there. But, for the most part, it's been really good. If I can keep these swing thoughts and keep going in the right direction, hopefully this is the type of golf I'll be able to produce."

This event has been feast or famine for McIlroy. He won here in 2014, but has three missed cuts in his other three starts. This week, however, he’ll be around for the weekend and is in position for his first European Tour victory since the 2016 Irish Open and his second worldwide victory of the year (Arnold Palmer Invitational).

"I have the confidence that I'm playing well and I can go out and try to just replicate what I did the day before," McIlroy said about his weekend approach with the lead. "On the first tee box tomorrow I'll be thinking about what I did today. Trying to just keep the same thoughts, make the same swings. I went a couple better today than I did yesterday. I'm not sure I'll keep that progression going but something similiar tomorrow would be nice."

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Goat visor propels Na to Colonial lead

By Will GrayMay 25, 2018, 1:29 am

Jason Dufner officially has some company in the headwear free agency wing of the PGA Tour.

Like Dufner, Kevin Na is now open to wear whatever he wants on his head at tournaments, as his visor sponsorship with Titleist ended earlier this month. He finished T-6 at the AT&T Byron Nelson in his second tournament as a free agent, and this week at the Fort Worth Invitational he's once again wearing a simple white visor with a picture of a goat.

"I bought it at The Players Championship for $22 with the 30 percent discount that they give the Tour players," Na told reporters. "It's very nice."

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Perhaps a change in headwear was just what Na needed to jumpstart his game. Last week's result in Dallas was his first top-35 finish in his last six events dating back to February, and he built upon that momentum with an 8-under 62 to take a one-shot lead over Charley Hoffman after the first round at Colonial Country Club.

While many sports fans know the "GOAT" acronym to stand for "Greatest Of All Time," it's a definition that the veteran Na only learned about earlier this year.

"I do social media, but they kept calling Tiger the GOAT. I go, 'Man, why do they keep calling Tiger the GOAT? That's just mean,'" Na said. "Then I realized it meant greatest of all time. Thinking of getting it signed by Jack (Nicklaus) next week (at the Memorial)."