Last week started with Liezl and I attending a wonderful function at the famous Bel-Air Country Club over in Los Angeles where we were proud and honoured to receive an award from the Friends of Golf for our charitable efforts these past 10-15 years. It was a special day for both of us.
The organisation Friends of Golf was established in 1979 with the purpose of supporting programmes for young golfers. You could say it has a similar kind of ethos to what we have at the Ernie Els and Fancourt Foundation (EEFF) established in 2000 with the aim of identifying and assisting talented young golfers from families with limited resources and giving them opportunities in education and golf. It’s been a huge success. Among our former pupils are Open Champion Louis Oosthuizen and Branden Grace, a three-time winner on the European Tour this season. Also countless other EEFF members have gone on to further education and careers.
Staying on the charitable theme for a moment, it’s great to see that the 2012 Els for Autism Golf Challenge is now up and running. This is its second year and the aim is to raise more funds for a proposed Els Center of Excellence, based in Florida but with a global reach through its innovative digital learning platform. The series teed off last month at Aviara Golf Club, followed by well-attended events at Doral and Congressional. The next two events are at PGA West in La Quinta on 21 May and at my home club the Bear’s Club in Florida on 2 June. They are sure to be popular, too. Why not come along and join the fun.
In fact, we have a fantastic schedule of regional tournaments running between now and September with opportunities to play some of the best golf courses in America and also win a place at the Grand Finale in Las Vegas later this year. As well as having a lot of fun and competing for some great prizes you’ll be contributing to a charitable cause that is very close to my heart. I really hope you can join us at some point this summer.
Okay, moving on to the day job as they say. This week’s Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass is the start of a run of four straight tournaments for me. After this week it’s the HP Byron Nelson Championship in Texas, then it’s over to England for the first time this year at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, after which I fly back to Ohio for the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village. I then have a week off and play the US Open at the fantastic Olympic Club in San Francisco. Of course these are all big tournaments and I’m extremely motivated to play some good golf, get myself right in the mix and hopefully register my first win of the season.
Let’s just focus for now on the Players Championship, though. This is about as big as it gets outside of a major championship or WGC event. It will be my 19th appearance in this event and I have only four top-10s to show for it, but I like the golf course and always look forward to teeing it up here. There is always a really strong field – this year only Bubba is missing from the world’s top-10 – and it has that buzz of something a little bit special.
Pete Dye’s Stadium Course is obviously one of the best-known layouts on the PGA Tour and it has undoubtedly one of the most famous par-3s in golf. Overall it is a real ball-strikers’ golf course. It’s not one of the longer courses we play on the PGA Tour, but it punishes you if you make even half-a-mistake. There is so little margin for error on a lot of the holes. You need to be patient and sometimes you need to play the percentages and make par your friend. Solid golf gets you good rewards here.
Anyway, the key I think is you have to hit it in the fairways, because the way this course sets up these days it usually plays firm and fast. You need to be hitting your approach shots from the ‘short stuff’ in order to have control of your golf ball. My long game has been in good shape this past few months, and I’ve always felt like a lot of the tee shots here suit my eye, so I'm quietly optimistic. Shooting four good, solid rounds of golf is my primary goal. We’ll see where that leaves me on Sunday afternoon.
That’s it for now. I’ll write again soon.