Ernie Els approaching golf crossroads
With very little fanfare here in the U.S., Ernie Els will make his first appearance in over 4 months this weekend at the Nedbank Challenge in South Africa - formerly the Million Dollar Challenge - after being off to recuperate from a knee injury suffered while sailing. Funny, I didn’t know that sailing was a contact sport. But I digress.
Ernie birdied his first hole in his first practice round this week to get off to a rousing start but admittedly struggled with the knee towards the end of the round. There was some swelling and who knows if he will even be able to complete the four round tournament. Sounds like lots of ice and a trainer will be necessary for a while. And I certainly wouldn’t expect a stellar performance this soon after a major injury like that.
It is his mental state that interests me right now. After that practice round he said what appears to be all the right things - that he’s done some soul-searching during the last four months and appreciates what he’s done so far, but expects to play his very best golf over the next 5-10 years. I wonder how much of that is coming from his guts and how much of that is coming from his mental guru Jos Von Stiphout.
I hope that first, he returns to full health and second, that he brings his most intense passion to preparing for the upcoming trials of this next decade. He will need it if he hopes to be labeled one of the greatest ever to play the game.
For the next 5 years at least, Ernie is playing for his place in history. Up until now, virtually all of the greatest have had their best years after they turned 30. The good news is that Ernie is only 35 years old.
The bad news is that Tiger Woods is about to turn 30 and could only just now be approaching his prime.
|« Jim Furyk could make it the "Big 6"||Tiger loosens up and gets Funky »|
I think that should be his goal. I think the Masters will be the most difficult for him to win, partially b/c I think Tiger relishes this tournament more than any other.
I don't think Ernie, or anyone else, can go toe to toe with Tiger over the long haul. The only things that threatens Tiger is age, injury, or loss of desire. Oh, and a balky driver. But I am sure he will be working hard on that this winter.
I think the game for everyone else is to be ready each and every major in the event that Tiger has an off week.
This year, Dimarco wasn't great under pressure at the Masters. At the British Open, Monty was never really going to threaten Tiger.
However at the US Open, Campbell stood up to be counted and took care of Tiger. I think there are more signs of people being able to stand up to Tiger.
A couple of weeks ago, David Howell held him off easily and with great mental strength.
In my opinion, next year will be a year when people won't flinch, as easily just because Tiger is near the lead.
WATCH OUT FOR EUROPE.
Harrington, Clarke, Howell, Donald, McGinley, Casey, Garcia.
One of these guys is going to do something.
I predict 2 majors for Europe and South Africa combined next year.
Just to comment on Els, he is CLASS, and the TRUE INTERNATIONAL PLAYER.
I just think next year is the year.
I agree that Sergio can't putt, but if he learns, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
I predict, just ONE major for Tiger next year.
One for Padraig Harrington, one for Ernie Els, and one for some other American than Tiger.
I also think Howell will challenge for a major and is a future major winner.
When Tiger is at his best, I don't think anyone can beat him. He is as complete a package (mental and physical) as anyone in the history of the game. I don't think Tiger has been at his best in some time, but I think he is beginning to regain his form. It will be interesting to see how he comes out of the gate next year.
Again, over the long haul, I think as long as he doesn't suffer injury or indifference, he will dominate for the next 7-10 yrs. The best chance that all others have is to sharpen their game to a point where they can walk through the door when Tiger opens it.
Tiger surely can't win them all, but I see him winning more than Els, or anyone else, for that matter.
I hope I am wrong, b/c from what I see and hear about Els, he seems to be a great man.
However I think (and HOPE), that some of the air of invinsibility around him is wearing off.
The two weeks where Howell, and Bryant, didn't crumble gave me alot of hope. So many other players would have opened the door for Tiger in those cases.
I don't think the others necessarily need Tiger to have an off week. I think provided someone is playing their best golf and doesn't stutter in the face of Tiger, then they will have a decent chance. Tiger is the best under pressure, but he has showed some signs of faltering this year. Like at the Masters where he let DiMarco back in.
Of course DiMarco, gave it handed it right back to Tiger, but I don't think DiMarco is a big time player.