His Breather Behind Him Ernie Marches On
At the Masters, he loses when Phil Mickelson makes a 20-footer on the last hole. He was only two off the pace at the U.S. Open going into the final day, then ran afoul of the USGAs misguided attempt at setting up the course and shot 80. He lost in a playoff at the British Open, having only 10 feet for birdie on the last hole in regulation while Todd Hamilton walked up to his ball 40 yards out in the fairway. And at the PGA Championship, he finished one shot out of a playoff when he three-putted the final hole.
So-o-o ' instead of the possibility of winning all four majors, Els finished the year 0-fer the majors. No wonder he was so fried when he went to the WCG-NEC the following week after the PGA. He shot three 72s and a 77 and finished way, way back, tied for 65th.
After playing golf in five of the six continents this year, after losing the four majors in such a teeth-gnashing manner, Ernie took a step back to look at the big picture. And he decided that what was wrong was what a lot of people decided a long time ago ' that he was tired of golf.
So, he flung the clubs in the garage at his London home and didnt get them out for two weeks. Two weeks! When the worlds busiest golfer got to the tournament last week in Ireland, he had recouped.
Voila ' look what happened. It was just what the swing doctor ordered. And once again, Els is winning.
Obviously, being human and being an athlete, you play to succeed and play to win, Els tried to explain what has happened the past month. And when it didn't happen, I was quite disappointed.
But I'm fine now. As I say, I've had two weeks off and had some time to reflect. I've just got to dedicate myself and get back into the swing of things, and I'm busy doing that.
Els plays golf like a drunk out on the town for a prolonged binge. He careens all over the place - starting out this year in Hawaii, heading to Thailand, swooping down to Australia, then hitting Dubai in the Middle East.
He came back to the U.S. for a couple of months, then headed to England when the season there got into high gear. He played in Germany, in Scotland, in the U.S. again, back across the Atlantic to Switzerland, then finally last week in Ireland.
Are you exhausted just reading about it?
And, to top it all off, he played a very high degree of excellence until the wheels came flying off at the NEC. His performance in the four majors rivals anyone. Were it not for the exceptional manner that Vijay Singh has played the last couple of months, Els would be world No. 1 today.
For a while there, myself and you guys were putting a negative spin on the whole thing, he said after the American Express. Notice he said myself before he said you guys ' politeness has always been his middle name.
If I look at it from a positive way, I came so close to winning four majors this year, and I've never been in that position before. I definitely did do something right. In three of the four, I was there right till the death. I've got to feel encouraged about what happened, more so than really being very negative.
Theres no question about the credentials of Singh to be No. 1. But a sneaking suspicion lurks that it could just as easily be Els if Els would settle down and concentrate his golf on one continent. But he has determined to be a world player. He plays in all four corners, regardless of what the many hours on a jet means to his game.
And for now, hell just continue to play the majors game of almosts. He feels as if he righted the ship again with his Sunday victory. The long, unbroken string of disappointments was becoming unbearable. The feelings came bubbling to the surface with the T65 at the NEC, and at that time, he wouldnt have guessed that he would have been in the winners circle at the AmEx in October.
Back at Firestone, no, admitted Ernie. I was nowhere. I should not have played that week.
I mean, I spoke to you after the Sunday round. I was nowhere. You know, I was very disappointed back then, and even when I got to Europe, the Swiss Open, Swiss Masters, I was still disappointed about my season or the summer.
But as I said to you guys the other day, I really wanted to draw a line and make the switch. I needed to make the switch. I did that the last two weeks.
And draw the line he did. In the meantime, Singh has broken out on top. All hats off the Vijay, says Els. But that line in the sand has been drawn, and Ernie has stopped the slide.
You know, I needed to do it, he said of the two-week vacation, and that's what I had to do. I needed to get that out of my system and start over. Otherwise I'm going to get left behind.
I don't want to do that. I want to go forward in my career, I want to win tournaments, I want to get to my goals, and the only way you can do it is to move forward. You can't keep looking back.
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OB tee shot, bunker trouble dooms Rahm to MC
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The key to surviving Carnoustie is avoiding the bunkers.
Jon Rahm found three bunkers to close out the front nine Friday, the start of a triple bogey-double-bogey run that led to a second-round 78 and missed cut at The Open.
“All of them were as bad a lie as they could have been,” he said. “Besides that, things didn’t happen. I can’t give an explanation, really. I don’t know.”
Rahm’s troubles started on the seventh hole, a par 4 with a steady left-to-right wind. Out of bounds loomed left, and Rahm, who primarily plays a cut shot, hadn’t missed left all week. This time, his ball didn’t curve, and the OB tee shot led to a triple.
“Whenever I start missing shots to the left,” he said, “it’s really hard for me to play.”
After a career-best fourth-place finish at the Masters, Rahm has now missed the cut in consecutive majors.
“Right now I’m not in any mental state to think about what happened, to be honest,” he said.
Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.
Bernhard Langer did not.
The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.
"You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."
Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.
Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.
"I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."
Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.
As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.
"I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."
Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.
Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.
Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.
“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”
Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.
“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”
Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.
Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.
Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.
Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.