“I WAS born in a bunker!” I’ve heard him say it before and I’m sure the Big Easy would have said it again – if only to himself – after the final hole of the Hoag Classic on the PGA Tour Champions on Sunday.
One of the hallmarks of Ernie Els’s long and storied golf career has been his extraordinary ability to play bunker shots and he executed another beauty – you can view it on the PGA Tour website – to get “up and down” for birdie on the par-5 18th hole at Newport Beach Country Club in California.
That birdie sealed a two-stroke victory for Champions Tour rookie Els who turned 50 last October. He had rounds of 66, 64 and 67 for 19-under 197 and a $270 000 pay cheque, and the Hall of Famer is again flashing that winner’s smile he wore in posting over 70 worldwide victories, including four Majors, on the regular tours.
“It was pretty tight,” Els was quoted on the PGA Tour website on Sunday. “I felt a little uncomfortable on the greens. I didn’t have that free-flowing feeling, I had to work hard for it and that’s a good thing to do, to work hard for something. You don’t want something falling in your lap. I’m glad the first one’s over with and we can move on now and it gets more comfortable after this.”
Els lost a playoff to Miguel Angel Jimenez in his debut in the season-opening Mitsubishi Electric Championship in Hawaii, then tied for 34th two Sundays back in the Cologuard Classic in Arizona. “After being in a playoff in Hawaii, coming close to winning there, I didn’t want to mess this one up,” Els said. “I had a great opportunity and I wanted to try and take that.”
The ageless Bernhard Langer, incidentally, won the Cologuard Classic with an 18-under-par return of 201. Not bad for a man of 62 who has now posted 41 Champions Tour wins since turning 50 to add to his 65 victories on the regular tours.
Some might argue that winning on the Champions Tour isn’t that impressive against a bunch of fellow geriatrics. Well, to describe them as geriatrics might be a little over the top. Golf lends itself to longevity and these guys are still fit and strong. The longest drive on the PGA Champions Tour this year, for example, has been an impressive 354-yard belter by Sweden’s Robert Karlsson. Our own Retief Goosen has pummelled a 340-yarder, while John Daly’s best effort to date has been a “mere” 337 yards.
Els’s Fellow Hall of Famer Fred Couples, trying to win the Hoag Classic event for the third time at age 60, finished with a 66 to tie for second with Glen Day and Karlsson on 199.
Written by Randpark Member Grant Winter.