Ernie Els has a reputation as being easy to deal with, if not exactly entirely forthcoming in interviews. I spoke with him last week when he was in Toronto courtesy of Callaway for a GolfTown fundraiser. He scrummed with the media, and was willing to talk on pretty much any topic from cricket to putting. Needless to say it was an interesting interview.
My column for Sympatico is about Els’ recent struggles — both on and off the course. BTW, he mentioned the nickname “the Big Easy” was coined by TaylorMade — something I did not know.
Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:
For Ernie Els, his on course results haven’t been very big in recent years, and it is clear that both in life and golf, his situation has been far from easy.
He’s dealt with having his knee reconstructed after an unfortunate boating accident in 2005, and then coming back from the injury too quickly. Then his putting stroke deserted him, and a crew of younger golfers like Sergio Garcia and Anthony Kim grabbed the spotlight as contenders to Tiger Woods. Off course he struggled with finding a diagnosis for his son, Ben, who doctors concluded had autism. To deal with his son’s condition he moved his home base to Florida from London, England. There was a lot of upheaval in the South African’s life at a time when he should have been playing the best golf of his life.
For a player once ranked as the top in the world, the winner of three majors over his career, Els appears like a golfer who may never achieve his potential or recover his status as a rival to Woods.
That’s not to say Els, a winner of the British Open and a two-time U.S. Open champion, thinks he’s down and out. He may have only one win on the PGA Tour in the last four years, but Els finished second last week in the opening round of the FedEx Cup with a solid final round that left him one shot out of a playoff.
“I’ve been playing well for a while, and still not getting a win, but getting closer,” says Els, who was at Magna Golf Club in Aurora this week for a charity event involving GolfTown and Callaway. “I’d love to win a tournament whether it is FedEx or another tournament in the world. I’d love to get into that winning feeling. If I get in that situation more often, I think a win will come.”