Ernie Els hasn’t won a major championship in six years but the South African believes he still has the game to capture his first PGA Championship title this week.
“I feel quite excited about this event,” said Els on the eve of the 90th PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club.
“I have a reasonably good chance at making a good showing and hopefully I have a chance on Sunday,” he said. “It is the ultimate test in golf to try and win a major.”
The three-time major champion Els had a lot of success at a young age on the PGA Tour, winning two US Opens by the age of 27. He won the US Open in 1994 and 1997 becoming the first non-US player to win it twice since Scot Alex Smith in 1906 and 1910.
So the expectations have always been high but with just one major win in the past decade there are some that think the talented Els may have been an underachiever all these years. Els isn’t buying it.
“When people don’t get what they feel they deserve from certain athletes they are going to criticize them,” said Els, of Johannesburg. “I get criticized in South Africa a lot more than I get over here. It’s something that I’ve had to live with for a while.”
Els said if it wasn’t for Tiger Woods he would have grabbed a few more major titles over the years. In 2000 he finished second in the Masters, US Open and British Open and two of those tournaments were won by Woods.
“If Tiger Woods wasn’t around I probably would have won a couple more majors,” he said. “I am not done yet. I am 38 years old and I’ve got a new teacher and I’m working as hard as I have on my game and trying to win more.”
“I think I’m done trying to prove other people right or wrong, so I am basically doing this for myself and for my family,” he said.
With two-time defending champ Woods skipping this week’s PGA Championship after having season-ending knee surgery, Els says that opens the door for other PGA stars to make a name for themselves.
“We are playing in the era of the next greatest player and winning a major in this era means a lot,” said Els, who is making his 16th appearance in the PGA Championship which began yesterday.
“This is a big kind of decade we are in. We’re in a decade where the dominant player is pretty dominant,” he said.
“To win a major now you make a big step in your career. They only come around a couple of times a year so it is all about trying to pace yourself and then see if you can perform better under huge pressure,” Els said.