Golf: Ernie Els

W2W4: Moving day at the Nelson

May, 19, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- It's Saturday and that's traditionally "moving day" on the PGA Tour. To make a move Saturday, golfers must adjust to the wind, which is expected to blow like it did Friday (15 to 20 mph, highest gust of 28). A few things to watch Saturday:

* Since 79 players make the cut, they'll be going off both tees in groups of three. That also means a cut will be made after Saturday's third round so that players can be paired for the final round.

* Get to the course early. The tee times start at 9:35 a.m. and Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson both have early tee times. Els tees off on No. 1 at 9:35 a.m. and Mickelson tees off at 9:45 a.m. off No. 1.

* Can Jason Dufner keep chipping balls in the hole? He did it twice Friday, including a chip-in from just off the green on No. 18, which gave him a one-shot lead. Before New Orleans, the question with Dufner might have been whether he could handle the lead on the weekend. But now that he's won a PGA Tour event, he's liable to be comfortable as he tries to hold it for 36 more holes.

* Matt Kuchar continues to play well fresh off his Players Championship win. I'll be honest: I thought Kuchar might be mentally worn out from that win. But he's hitting the ball well and putting his way toward the top of the leaderboard. As confident as Kuchar is, don't count him out.

* Keegan Bradley dropped a stroke on No. 12, his third hole, but came back with six birdies (he had four bogeys total) to shoot 68. Bradley took advantage of calmer conditions in the morning Friday. He probably won't be as lucky today. Still, the defending champion beat everybody in the wind last year.

* Neighbors Chad Campbell and Ryan Palmer will be playing together Saturday. So it won't be tough for local fans -- they are both from Colleyville, Texas, located between Dallas and Fort Worth -- to follow them as both are in the final threesome.

* Wind. Mother Nature seems to love to put a stamp on this tournament. She blew a mighty wind over the weekend last year. And while the forecast doesn't call for winds with gusts up to 40 mph like last year, it's looking like 25 mph or so. It will certainly impact the golf.

* TCU fans can come out and pull for a couple of former Frogs golfers. J.J. Henry, sporting his purple shirt Friday, shot 68 in the second round and is 4-under for the tournament. J.J. Killeen made the cut on the number at 2-over.

* Who could go low from way back? Keep an eye on Brian Gay. We talked about him before the tournament and he made the cut on the number. He likes the course and has gone low here before.

* Sleeper group: Vijay Singh, Gary Woodland, John Rollins. All three have played well in spurts this week and could feed off each other playing in the middle of the tee times at 10:35.
IRVING, Texas -- Since 79 players made the cut (2-over), they'll go off in threesomes Saturday starting at 9:35 a.m. at TPC Four Seasons Resort & Club at Las Colinas.

The complete list is here. Some highlights:

* Ernie Els is in a group with Jerry Kelly and Brandt Jobe at 9:35 a.m. off No. 1 tee.

* Phil Mickelson tees off right after that at 9:45 a.m. with Andres Romero and Scott Brown.

* Defending champion Keegan Bradley is in the 11:25 a.m. group with Marc Leishman and Ryuji Imada.

* The Players Championship winner Matt Kuchar tees off at 11:35 a.m with Dicky Pride and Pat Perez.

* Leader Jason Dufner joins Colleyville, Texas, neighbors Chad Campbell and Ryan Palmer at 11:45 a.m.

Ernie Els overcomes stumbling start to shoot 70

May, 17, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Ernie Els spotted the field two strokes with bogeys on the first two holes, but fought back for an even-par 70, matching playing partner Phil Mickelson and finishing three strokes better than Adam Scott in Thursday morning’s power pairing.

Els, opening on the second nine, hit his first tee shot in a fairway trap on No. 10 and made bogey. His drive on the reachable No. 11 found the water hazard left of the green and he said he was fortunate to get out with only a bogey there.

“I still have a lot of confidence, but this was a great day to score,’’ Els said. “If the wind gets up a little this afternoon, maybe we won’t be so far behind the eight-ball.’’

Els had two putts stop an inch from the cup and four more finish within a foot.

“I left a few putts on the edges, but you’ve got to be spot on,’’ Els said. “The greens are perfect. I can’t complain about anything. I just have to make more putts.''

Ernie Els happy to be back at Nelson

May, 16, 2012

IRVING, Texas – Just days before the Nelson event began in 1995, a younger Ernie Els was on the driving range at TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas with Byron Nelson.

“I remember in 1995, he was sitting behind us watching us hit balls and after the clinic was done, he came to me and said, ‘I really think you’re swinging the club as good as I’ve ever seen anybody swing the club,’” Els said. “That gave me the confidence to know that at an early age in my career that I was doing things right. I went on to win the tournament. He always helped me.”

Els has returned to the tournament for the first time since 2006, when he tied for 13th. Els said a scheduling conflict with a tournament in England kept him from returning. Els helped redesign the course where that tournament was held and felt a commitment to attend the past few years. But he’s back at the Nelson, where he shot 65-68 on the weekend to beat Robin Freeman, Mike Heinen and D.A. Weibring by three strokes. Els shot 61 at Cottonwood Valley on Friday, breaking the course record. The tournament no longer uses Cottonwood Valley for the early rounds.

It was Weibring that later redesigned the TPC Four Seasons course, altering the greens and changing aspects of several holes, including adding water to No. 18. Els hasn’t played a competitive round on the new course yet, but likes the changes.

“If the wind blows like it normally does, it’s a real challenge,” Els said. “If it doesn’t blow, you’ve got some opportunities here to make birdies. The greens are more undulating than they were back in the day, but I feel the changes they’ve made are for the better.

“The final stretch now is a real tough stretch with 18 with the water and the redesigned greens coming in. If I can hit a fairway any side, that’s a plus. The ball flies in the Bermuda rough. The eye, the way I see it is the way I saw it in the 1990s. He hasn’t changed many of the angles.”

Els said he went to the workout facility at the Four Seasons earlier this week and saw a photo of himself in 1995, the year he won. Els was the reigning U.S. Open champion then. He added a second U.S. Open in 1997 and has 18 wins. But Els’ game has re-emerged recently. He was playing better near the end of 2011 and has carried that momentum into 2012. He finished second in New Orleans and has three other top-5 finishes on the PGA Tour this season.

“I’ve been a little spotty, but also pretty good,” Els said. “I probably could have won three times already this year – Europe and two over here. The flat stick didn’t really help me out. I’m working on that. I feel like I’m hitting the ball nicely. I’m healthy again. I had the flu virus for 10 days last week. I feel a lot stronger and I’m looking forward to this week.”

Els noted that he feels good in Dallas, where he started his career in the United States in the early 1990s.

“I stayed here and I met a lot of great people and practiced here and went through Tour school,” Els said. “There’s a nice connection there.”
A couple of former major winners and past champions have committed to the 2012 HP Byron Nelson Championship May 14-20.

Ernie Els, winner of three majors (two U.S. Opens and a British Open), Padraig Harrington, also a three-time major champ (two British Opens and a PGA) and Jason Day, winner of the Nelson in 2010, are going to play in this year's event.

Those three join other recent commitments: Ben Curtis (winner last week in San Antonio and the 2003 British Open) and Jason Dufner (No. 23 on the PGA Tour Money List).

The tournament will be played at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Las Colinas.