Hard questions for the Big Easy

August 3, 2017

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.

ERNIE’S ALL-STARS

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.