Els not taking it easy at Nedbank
BY iseekgolf.com | Southern Africa Tour | 2006 Nedbank Golf Challenge | Preview | 29 Nov 2006
Ernie Els is a man on a mission – he wants a 2006 title and is running out of time to do it. This week, Ernie Els bravely defied the scorching sun, sending balls to great distances at the Lost City Golf Course driving range in preparation for the Nedbank Golf Challenge, which tees off tomorrow.
When the mercury hit 31 degrees Celsius at midday, Els was still there, looking like a man on a mission as he struck balls with serious skill and serious.
“I have set myself a goal, to get myself back to where I was in world golf, and hopefully beyond that,” said Els, who held the number one ranking in the world for nine weeks and then the number ranking behind Tiger Woods for a much longer period.
This season saw the three-time Major winner drop to seventh, largely due the serious knee injury he suffered 16 months ago.
It has been a long and uphill battle for Els, who at 37, had found new motivation and discovered a reborn passion for the game.
But, despite a couple of top-5 and top-10 finishes, Els is still short of a tournament win in 2006, a fact that he hopes to set right in one of his next three starts.
“My last win was the dunhill championship at Leopard Creek in December last year; that was a win in 2006, said Els. “I have won every year and I don’t want this year to be any different.”
“I’ve got three straight tournaments here in South Africa and, even if I want to do my bit for golf in this country, from a personal point of view, I need to win at least one of them. Maybe more than one.”
“Three weeks, three different golf courses that I’m very fond of and where I’ve won before – I’m looking forward to the challenge,” said the Big Easy, who will tee it up as the defending champion in the renamed Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek near Malelane.
After that Els will take to the fairways of Humewood Golf Club in Port Elizabeth, South Africa’s only true links, for the South African Airways Open from December 14-17.
“I won the Goodyear Classic there a while ago – can’t remember exactly when,” Els said. Actually, it was 1992, but he can be forgiven. How does one remember the exact dates when you’ve won 59 tournaments across the world in 16 years as a professional.
The first round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge starts at 11.10am on Thursday, 30 November 2006 with American Jim Furyk the defending champion. Els won the event in 1999, 2000 and 2002, while the last South African winner was Retief Goosen in 2004.
The field for this year, listed by world ranking, is:
- Jim Furyk (USA)
- Ernie Els (South Africa)
- Retief Goosen (South Africa)
- Sergio Garcia (Spain)
- Henrik Stenson (Sweden)
- Padraig Harrington (Ireland)
- Trevor Immelman (South Africa)
- David Howell (England)
- Chris DiMarco (USA)
- Colin Montgomerie (Scotland)
- Jose Maria Olazabal (Spain)
- Charl Schwartzel (South Africa)
Source – SAPGA