Okay, that’s it. Ernie Els has had enough. Tiger Woods was recently named golf’s Player of the Year for a record-setting eight time and while the rest of the sporting class said, So what else is new?, one of the world’s top golfers threw down the gauntlet. Or ratherm he threw it at Tiger. “I want to win more majors and start giving Tiger a run for his money,” said Els, a former No. 1 who’s now ranked fifth in the world. “I’ve got to give myself a three-year stretch to try to approach Tiger and I really believe I can do it.”
Hey, this is golf’s equivalent of major trash talk. Most of the sport has essentially rolled over and played for second. Oh, sure someone named Phil or Vijay or whatever man-ups every so often and beats Tiger. But for the most of the last decade rest of the Tour has essentially been Tiger Cubs.
Els was one of the few with the skills and, more important, the ProV1s to hang in there with Tiger. But he injured his knee following the 2005 British Open and has essentially been playing gimp golf since. This month he won the South African Open and pronounced himself fit enough to take on Tiger. “I’m fitter than I have been since I came out of the Army,” said Els, now 37. “”My knee is strong and the important thing is I trust it. That means I can swing the club theway I want to, without feeling I have to protect it in any way.”
The South African Open victory allowed Els to keep alive his own Ripkenesque streak of winning a tournament every year since 1991. He called it a “relief.” Now he’s got three year to chase the Beast.