ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Fresh off his second straight victory, Ernie Els headed to Augusta National for a quick practice round Tuesday and planned to take his caddie with him.
Only it’s not the caddie who has been on the bag for those two wins.
Els has been using two caddies this year – former NHL player Dan Quinn, whom he met in South Florida; and Ricci Roberts, his longtime looper from South Africa. Els plans to play 26 times this year, and each caddie gets half of the tournaments, including the majors.
Quinn was to caddie at the Masters. Even after two straight wins with Roberts on the bag, Els said that won’t change.
“I know a lot of guys said I should take Ricci, but we have made a decision,” Els said. “I’ve spoken to Ricci and Dan about it, and they are happy and we’ll stick with it. I don’t think anybody can tell me anything more about Augusta than I already know. I’ve had local caddies take me through there. I’ve had everybody take me through there. So I know exactly where everything goes.”
Els first used Quinn late last year, and he came within one 5-wood into the water of winning the HSBC Champions.
Quinn, a 44-year-old Canadian, spent 14 seasons in the NHL, scoring a career-high 40 goals with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1987. He took up golf when he retired and played on the Celebrity Tour.
Els met him a few years ago and started playing golf with him.
“Found out that he was a very good hockey player. I didn’t quite know that,” Els said. “And he played for such a long time, but he was retired for a while. Pretty easygoing guy, although he’s serious about what he does.”
Quinn caddied for Els before the Florida swing, and will work the Masters and the PGA Championship.
TIGER TIMES: There has been some speculation that Masters television coverage could miss Tiger Woods if he was given early tee times over the first two rounds.
ESPN will broadcast Thursday and Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. A group that plays at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday would start at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, meaning television would capture only the last few holes.
That would break a trend at Augusta National involving Woods, however.
Over the last 10 years, Woods has teed off Thursday in the early afternoon (from 12:57 p.m. to 1:52 p.m.) five times, and the other five years he has started around 10:30 a.m., giving him a late time Friday.
No matter when he plays, the Masters offers live coverage on www.masters.com from Amen Corner and on the 15th and 16th holes for every player, and it picks a featured group for live coverage starting on the 10th hole.
Augusta National also has said it would have live coverage on its Web site of Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer hitting ceremonial opening tee shots, and Woods hitting his opening tee shot.
SHANGHAI CHANGE: The HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the fourth World Golf Championship on the calendar, now counts as an official PGA Tour victory – as long as it is won by a PGA Tour member.
The PGA Tour’s policy board decided last week to count as official the only WGC event overseas. However, it will only count as an official win and offer a three-year exemption on tour if a member wins.
Phil Mickelson won the HSBC Champions last year, but only 24 players – just over one-third of the 67-man field – were PGA Tour members. PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said the decision is not retroactive, meaning Mickelson still has 37 tour victories.
Votaw also said prize money from the $7 million purse would not count toward the money list, even if a PGA Tour member wins. The HSBC Champions is held one week before the tour’s final event at Disney.
STRONG START: J.P. Hayes disqualified himself from the second stage of Q-school in 2008 when he realized he used a a prototype golf ball that had not been officially approved on one hole.
That gave him limited status last year, and he finally regained his PGA Tour card at Q-school in December.
At this rate, Hayes might not be going back.
The 44-year-old Hayes tied for seventh at Bay Hill for his third top 10 of the year. He tied for fourth in Mexico, one week after he tied for fifth in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
He is 40th in the FedEx Cup standing and has $596,230.
“Very encouraging,” Hayes said. “I was looking for a good start on the West Coast, but I’ve never played well over there. To get off to a start like that is awesome. It’s quicker than I anticipated.”
Hayes is probably about $100,000 away from locking up his card for 2011, and the season is only three months old.
“It definitely makes the rest of the year … I wouldn’t say more enjoyable, but certainly from the standpoint of not having to play catch-up like I’ve been doing the last couple of years,” he said.
PEREZ ON TWITTER: Pat Perez is on Twitter (PatPerezGolf), but he had only eight tweets in seven months until finding a new purpose in social networking.
“Going to start using Twitter for random phrases that make no sense,” he posted a week ago, and he has not let up.
Among his questions:
-“What the hell does ‘lay it on the line’ mean? Lay what on the line and what line are we talking about?
-“I’ve been injured a bunch, but I’ve never ‘licked my wounds.’
-“I went to Arizona State. It’s in Tempe. Where the hell is the School Of Hard Knocks?”
DIVOTS: Every adult buying a ticket to the PGA Championship will be able to bring up to four juniors (age 17 and under) for free. That’s up from two free junior passes a year ago. The PGA said 40,000 juniors came to Hazeltine. … Paul Goydos was looking at Fred Couples’ results on the Champions Tour – three victories and runner-up – when he came to this conclusion: “You know how you can tell you’re having a good year? When your earnings end in three zeros.” Couples has earned $931,000 in four starts. … Phil Mickelson failed to finish under par at a tournament for the first time all year at Bay Hill. He closed with a a 77 and was at 2-over 290.
STAT OF THE WEEK: There has not been a playoff on the PGA Tour this year, heading into the Houston Open. The last time there were no playoffs before the Masters was in 1974, and Lee Elder broke the string when he won the Monsanto Open a week later.
FINAL WORD: “I watch my friends play. I watch more Champions Tour golf this year.” – Davis Love III, who turns 46 next month.