DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Ernie Els spent last week in West Palm Beach, resting and working on his game as he tries to peak for the Masters. It might not be long before he returns for good.
Golf’s most global player said Thursday that he was planning to move his home base from London to south Florida, where the weather is more suitable for golf in the winter and he can get strong care for his son, Ben, who is autistic.
Els was raised in South Africa, but he has made London his home for most of his professional career. He lives on the 16th hole of the West course Wentworth Golf Club, home of the European Tour and the World Match Play Championship. His daughter, Samantha, is about to turn 9 and it is tough to take her out of school.
“For me to stay in England in the offseason is tough for me to do,” Els said after opening with a 74 in the CA Championship. “I’m a guy from South Africa. I love the sun. I can’t see myself sitting in the cold for three or fourth months. I don’t like that. I’ve always been comfortable down here. The schools for Ben, especially … there’s really good stuff happening over here for him.
“All in all, I think it will be a good move.”
Els disclosed two weeks ago that Ben, who is 6, has autism. He now has an “Autism Speaks” logo on his golf bag and wants to get involved raising money for research and awareness for the disorder.
He once had a home at Lake Nona in Orlando, but lived there only during long stretches of golf on the U.S. tour.
Els spoke to Nick Price, who grew up in Zimbabwe and has lived in Palm Beach County for years, during the Honda Classic, which the Big Easy won for his first PGA Tour victory in 3 1/2 years. Price is one of many friends in South Florida.
As for his golfing plans? Els does not think it will affect his schedule.
“I’ll still go to Dubai. I still got at the end of the year overseas,” he said. “I might put one or two more events into the schedule. I’ll be closer to this side.”
CONFIDENT CADDIE? According to his caddie, Tiger Woods had about a 1-in-15 chance of making that downhill, 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win at Bay Hill last week.
But upon further review, Steve Williams must have been confident it was going in.
Look at a replay of Woods standing over the putt, and Williams is in the background with his caddie bib already removed. If Woods had missed, there would have been a playoff with Bart Bryant.
This was brought to Williams’ attention Thursday. He thought about it, then smiled.
“Just a habit,” he said.
One can only assume the “habit” was taking off his bib on the 18th green. It had been seven years since Woods was in the final group and made a birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win.
POOR MONTY: These are desperate times for Colin Montgomerie, who is No. 66 in the world and is at Doral (top 20 from the PGA European Tour money list last year) with one last chance to crack the top 50 and go to the Masters.
There are a lot of ranking points available at this World Golf Championship, and even more at the Masters. And that’s one way Europe will pick its Ryder Cup team. With all that pressure in mind, Monty was on the range Thursday morning when European captain Nick Faldo came by in black workout shorts and a black shirt.
Faldo stood behind Sergio Garcia, about four stations down from Montgomerie.
Monty would hit a few shots, then look over his shoulder at Faldo. He did this for about five minutes. Finally, Faldo looked over at the Scot and they made eye contact, and exchanged a few words.
Alas, Monty went 13 holes before making a birdie and shot 75. Only two players had a worse score.
CLUBS ARRIVE: Louis Oosthuizen arrived on Sunday for the CA Championship, although his clubs did not make it. He chipped and putted Monday — no clubs. He learned on Tuesday that he would be playing with Tiger Woods — no clubs.
Ping made him a replacement set Wednesday — still no clubs.
They finally arrived at 10 p.m. Wednesday, so the young South African had a security blanket for his first time in the U.S. spotlight. And he acquitted himself nicely until struggling down the stretch, taking double bogey on No. 17 with trouble in the rough and a three-putt from 20 feet. He wound up with a 74.
He hit his tee shot over the green on the 366-yard 16th, and got up-and-down for birdie.