POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 12, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 12:13 p.m. HST, Jan 12, 2011
Dressed casually in a golf shirt and shorts, Ernie Els stopped by the Sony Open in Hawaii media room yesterday to reflect on a wide range of topics with an ease and aplomb that accompanies those who are the very best at what they do.
The two-time champion of this PGA Tour event and three-time major golf winner was asked how he is positioning himself toward eventual retirement, how he expects to do in the majors, what does he think of the rivalry between the Europeans and Americans, will he be a regular member on the Champions Tour, do people appreciate his worldwide resume or know how difficult it is to win, and the major transition of playing the Plantation Course one week and the Waialae Country Club the next.
As you listened to the half-hour's worth of responses on this picture-perfect day on Oahu, Els was funny one moment, serious the next -- particularly about his new tournament called the Els for Autism Golf Challenge -- and always honest with his responses.
He doesn't have the cigar-chomping delivery of a Rocco Mediate or subtle sense of humor of a Paul Goydos, but he does have that big easy kind of charm necessary when facing the media on a slow day at the golf course.
Els is well aware of what it takes to win over there on Maui and right here on Oahu. He's the only golfer to have done both. It's bombs and wedges away on the Plantation Course and shape-shifting patience at Waialae.
"For one, I'm not going to have to worry about my shins this week; going up and down those hills, carrying 228 pounds, gets to you a little bit," Els said as laughter filled the room. "This week is very flat.
"The adjustment is basically more of a positional game. You've really got to get yourself in the fairway; coming out of the rough this week you're not really going to have a chance at winning. You've got to position yourself all the time; shaping your ball left to right, right to left and being in control of your game."
Being in control of his own destiny is a goal Els has had for the last couple of years.
He will turn 42 in 2011, not exactly down-on-the-farm material, but his best days are probably behind him. He'd like nothing better than to get a win this year on the PGA Tour, so he can come back to Hawaii for the 2012 season opener. And win another major? Well, that's not beyond the realm of possibility, either.
"At least I made the cut at the Masters last year," Els said with a wry smile. "So, that was a step in the right direction. I've got a good chance. I've just got to get out of this putting streak. If I can putt like I did at Country Club in South Africa, I can win a major."
Now, about that retirement.
"I'm definitely not looking for retirement, but I'm definitely positioning myself for when that day comes," Els said. "I want to be in the right market, the right area. And that's basically what I'm looking at. I'm trying to take advantage where the opportunities are. And at the moment, it's in Asia."
Is the Champions Tour in your future?
"At the moment, no, not really," Els said, then smiled again. "I've got some time to figure that out. There could be some other events taking place over there (in Asia), so we'll see how the world turns."
As for all the young players joining the tour each year and the friendly banter between the young guns on the European and American tours, well, "I think you're going to see the battle there, between the lines you can read giving each other a little bit of lip. Which is great. I think it's great for the game. It's great for the rivalry between the two tours and bringing the Ryder Cup into it also."
And what about all those fresh faces joining him this week on Oahu? Well, he'd look at the PGA Tour media guide to see who's who; if they still had one in book form.
"I think it's a great event for them to get their feet wet, so to speak," Els said. "You walk around the range (here) and you think you're on a different tour. The old guys aren't there a lot of the time, so, it's nice because this is where they show their faces and start their careers."