Ernie Els on the best shots he’s ever seen, mulligans he would take, his favorite days on the links and more.
Q: You won the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. Who were you paired with in the first two rounds?
A: John Daly and Payne Stewart. But Daly only played nine holes on Friday. [Laughs]
Q: Who’s a better Ernie: Hemingway or Borgnine?
A: Hemingway caught a lot of fish and drank a lot of rum. He’s my man.
Q: What’s the best shot you’ve ever witnessed?
A: Tiger Woods at Hazeltine at the 2002 PGA on 18. With the ball below his feet, he hit a 3-iron from the fairway bunker over a tree and onto the green and made the birdie putt.
Q: In an SI poll, your fellow players said you’re the guy they’d want on their side in a bar fight. Who would you want on your side?
A: Brooks Koepka looks tough, Dustin Johnson has a long reach, and for the haymaker, Brendon de Jonge.
Q: If you could go back and give yourself a mulligan, when and where would you cash it in?
A: At the “95 PGA, at Riviera, I had a putt on 16 that went in and out, all the way around. If I make that putt, I probably go on to win. So I would hit that putt half an inch to the right, and it goes in.
Q: What young gun most reminds you of you?
A: Rickie Fowler is long, but not the longest, plays lots of different shots, and is very aggressive—like me.
Q: What’s the hardest you’ve ever laughed on the course?
A: At a pro-am in Belgium, a gentleman hit the ball off the heel and it went between his legs. He laughed almost as hard as me.
Q: Who would play you in “The Ernie Els Story”?
A: I’d say Brad Pitt, but I’m not good-looking enough.
Q: If you could relive any golf day, what would it be?
A: I got to play St. Andrews with my dad, Neels (below). That day can go on forever.
The Big Easy picks the best of the best from the Els Era
BEST DRIVER: Davis Love III
Because you can’t beat length and accuracy. Driving with persimmon was an art form, and Davis could drive it close to 300 yards, and very straight, with a wooden club.
BEST IRON PLAYER: Fred Couples
He could land long irons softer than anybody, even Nick Price and Davis.
BEST SHORT GAME: Seve Ballesteros and Jose Maria Olazabal (tie)
Amazing. From chipping with a 7-iron to lobs, those two could do it all.
BEST PUTTER: Tiger Woods
His putts rolled beautifully and hugged the ground. He was an amazing green-reader, had great pace and was absolutely fearless.
BEST MENTAL GAME: Jack Nicklaus
He played within himself. If there was a target on the green he wanted to fire at, no flag would tempt him. It was safety first with Jack.