Els Blog: Magic of The Masters

Tue 05 Apr 2016

Els Blog: Magic of The Masters

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April 5: In his latest blog from Augusta National, South African golf legend Ernie Els, who is International Ambassador and honorary member of the Asian Tour, gives us his views about the year’s first Major at The Masters Tournament.
By Ernie Els, Asian Tour International Ambassador and Honorary Member
It’s four or five months since my last report, so there’s a fair bit of ground to cover here. It’s tricky to know where to start. Actually, with the Masters only a matter of a few days away, it’s not that tricky!
For many people the golf season only gets started properly when we all arrive at Augusta National. It’s a special place, a special tournament, and I think the fact that we’ve had to wait seven months since the last Major only adds to the sense of excitement and anticipation. You could say that players and fans are united in having one eye on Augusta long before we set foot on that pristine pure-green turf.
Ernie Els & Thongchai Jaidee Ernie Els & Thongchai Jaidee
With my Asian Tour Ambassador’s hat on, I see that a total of nine Asian (or Asian-born) players qualified for this year’s Masters. However, with Sangmoon Bae currently in military service it means only eight will tee it up: Byeonghun An, Thongchai Jaidee, Anirban Lahiri, Danny Lee, Hideki Matsuyama, Kevin Na and two debutants Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Cheng Jin.
Eight is the luckiest number in China, though, so maybe that’s a good omen for Asian golf’s overall prospects. As I’ve said before, someone is going to come along soon and follow in the footsteps of Y.E. Yang and secure that second Major victory. Why not at Augusta?
One thing’s for sure, many of the guys on that list will be showing-up to win, not just make the cut.
Thongchai has been around for a while, he’s played the Masters a bunch of times, and he has the experience and that toughness of character that is necessary to do well in Majors. Hideki is obviously world-class and played some great golf here last year, especially in the final round, to finish tied-5th.
Meanwhile, Anirban will be raring to go after a strong final Major of 2015, tied fifth in the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. That gives you some serious confidence and often it’s exactly what a player needs before they can learn to win one of the big ones. Anirban hits his golf ball into the next zip code as well, which is a real asset on a course such as Augusta National.
Ernie Els and Anirban Lahiri Ernie Els and Anirban Lahiri
Who knows really, though? Golf is such a tough game to predict and even as a player you never quite know when it might be your week. When I won The Open at Muirfield in 2002 it was straight off the back of a poor performance in the previous week’s Scottish Open. My confidence was a bit low, so it wasn’t what you’d call the ideal way to go into a Major. But I saw my swing coach at the time, David Leadbetter, on the Monday evening and we straightened things out. By Wednesday morning, I was hitting it great and couldn’t wait to get started. On Sunday night we had that beautiful old Claret Jug on the table next to us. That’s how quickly this game can turn around for you!
Anyway, while some guys will be making their debut at Augusta, for me this will be my 22nd Masters appearance and my 92nd in all Major Championships. Closing in on No. 100 feels like a major milestone (no pun intended) because it points towards longevity and that is one of the things I’m most proud about in my professional career.
It’s amazing to me that it is 22 years now since my first Major victory. Back in the day when I was just starting out in the professional ranks, I was cocky enough to think I’d win all the Majors…and I honestly thought the Masters would be the first of them.
That didn’t happen, but four Majors wins isn’t too shabby…and my Masters dream is still alive. Back in 1986 I sat in front of the television with my dad late into the night and watched Jack Nicklaus win a spectacular sixth Masters at the age of 46, which is my age now.
If we’re talking omens, then maybe that’s another one. If I do win a Green Jacket it would arguably be my greatest career achievement.
Looking further ahead there are some great Major venues with the U.S. Open at Oakmont, scene of my first Major win in 1994, then on to Royal Troon for The Open and Baltusrol for the PGA.
I’d love to make a bit of noise this year and prove something to myself. For a top sportsman, that mindset doesn't ever leave you. Look at other golfers of my age, or any other generation - the likes of Bobby Locke, Peter Thomson, Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, and so on.
We’re all similar. We all want to keep playing, keep competing, keep winning. You don’t ever want to feel like you’re done!
Ends