Holmes hangs it out; Els chokes under pressure

Interesting golf on this weekend, especially if you tuned in to the Golfchannel to watch Ernie Els fail to better Tiger Woods. This is intriguing because:

a) It was Tiger’s second win in a row and
b) Ernie Els continues to demonstrate that he has a tough time measuring up.

I’m particularly interested in the second point. Ernie managed to stick with Tiger a few years back in South Africa at the Presidents Cup and it proved to be some of the best golf ever televised. But on Sunday he should have been in the driver’s seat. Woods was holding his swing together with a US$3-million appearance check and some duct tape. His drive was erratic, while Els looked cool and collected. The Big Easy was sparkling through 18, and Woods needed a birdie on the final just to get into the playoff.
But when the pressure is on, Woods ramps up and placed his drive on the extra hole down the middle. Els, on the other hand, hit it into the trees and seemed flustered enough that he tried for the green in two, coming up short and in the water. It was a desparate move by a golfer who seemed convinced his opponent was better. Els is wonderful with a wedge in his hand, so why not hit it close and then wedge it on. Instead Els played like Woods was guaranteed an eagle, which wasn’t likely.
Els should be able to stand up to the best, but he’s proving that isn’t the case. Els’ website lists quack Jos Vanstiphout as his “mental coach,” even though he isn’t a psychologist — just a failed Belgium pop singer.

Els’ site is pretty defensive when the issue of Vanstiphout comes up:

By the very nature of Jos�s business, there are sceptics who look at what he does and question its merit. Their vitriol is perhaps driven primarily by ignorance, and possibly jealousy, too. Some say that most of the players he works with are already successful. Of course it is true that, as Jos once memorably put it, �you can�t take a mule and make it win the Derby�! But all of the players he has worked with have taken their careers to greater heights. You can�t argue with that.

Well maybe you can. For all of Els’ talent, he should have won more often. He should have shut the door on Todd Hamilton at Troon. He should have a green jacket by now. He should have held it together and won at Shinnecock. He didn’t and that leaves me wondering where is all this success that Vanstiphout claims to have achieved? Many journalists say Jos is a “sports psychologist,” but I can’t find record of that. We know he was a singer, then a salesman and now a self-described “mental coach.” I think it is time for Ernie to trade Jos in for a new version….

  • On another note, J.B. “Don’t call me John” Holmes hammed his way to a win in Phoenix. His swing is a bit odd looking, but it is hard to argue with the results — he is averaging 315 yards off the tee. His length allows him to simply overpower courses just as Bubba Watson is capable of doing. The game is about power now and Holmes has it in spades. Holmes had this to say about his win:

    It was one of my goals to win out here. It happened real quickly,” Holmes said. “I didn’t expect it so soon. I knew I had the ability. Every tournament I played, I just got more confidence and more confidence. It’s just been a whirlwind right now.

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Jeff Lancaster

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • 1) Els – choked; Tiger loves pressure golf (because he can out psyche his opponents and he and they know it.)
    2) Holmes – length is the new strategy in town. Can’t help but noticed he generates his power via his poweful downswing move, rather than a lengthy back swing a la Bubba Watson, Daly, and Mickelson. Can’t wait to hear all the golf gurus to dissect this phenomenon.

  • Robert
    I’m a big fan of Els and enjoy watching HIM play probably more than anyone else; but for the last few years I haven’t been able to shake the points you make about him. It’s hard to believe, but with all the physical talents in the world, and with all the ‘psychology’ he can handle, Ernie still seems to fall apart when he faces Woods — and it’s getting WORSE.


  • I really like Els as well — but damn it, I wish he’d win more often. Posting a 66 on Sunday should win the tournament for you, but Els needed to step it up in the playoff. According to the Golf Channel, he’d hit a similar shot a couple of years back and made birdie. This time he found the drink….wonder what would Woods have done had Els popped it on the green?

  • Then again, in 2004. Els should have won the Masters for the way he played on the back nine had it not been Phil playing just a slight notch better.

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