Not Cutting It
When Ernie Els scored a decisive victory at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic last month in Irving, Texas, the defending U.S. Open champ seemed to have broken the jinx that had seen him go without a Tour victory since his triumph at Oakmont a year ago. But Els's performance last week at Shinnecock forced a drearier assessment of the South African's state right now. The U.S. Open was his second missed cut in a major championship this year. His rounds at Augusta were 72-75. At Shinnecock, he was 74-73.
"Yesterday I was out of control, and today I didn't play much better," Els said Friday. "I'm just very disappointed. Luckily I'm young enough that there will be more Opens. Maybe I should change my game plan and play tournaments going into the majors."
On Thursday, he hit only eight fairways and seven greens in regulation. "I was just playing tentatively," Els said afterward. "I was trying to steer the ball, and that isn't my game. I like to play loose. I felt a lot more tense on the 1st tee than I ever have before."
On the 17th tee on Friday, Els sat on a bench waiting to tee off and was consoled by his playing partner, Nick Price. "I think Ernie was a little depressed," Price said. "I said to him, 'Hey, it's not going to be the last time you miss a cut in a major championship.' I kept telling him he is 25, he has 20 more U.S. Opens left in him, and he won a tournament five weeks ago, so he can't get depressed. It's not like this is the end of the world. I think that maybe I was able to cheer him up a little bit. I certainly hope so."
Mind If I Play Through?
That blur you may have noticed at Shinnecock Hills on Saturday morning was actually John Daly completing his 18-hole round in a time of two hours and 49 minutes. As one of 15 players tied with the highest score to make the cut, 146, Daly had the dubious honor of teeing off first at 9:06 a.m. And since he was odd man in the field (and when can't you say that about Daly?), he was sent out with a noncompeting marker, Jim Holtgrieve, the 1981 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from St. Louis, who was working as a volunteer in the Shinnecock locker room.
"I'd have played a little quicker if it was a regular tournament," Daly said afterward. "I didn't rush or anything. I'm glad the USGA put a marker in. It kept me patient."
At The Players Championship in 1992, Daly and Mark Calcavecchia were actually fined by the PGA Tour for playing too fast. They finished in 2:05, and the thinking was that they hadn't given their best effort. Later that year in the British Open at Muirfield, Daly also rushed around in a time that was considered to be disrespectful and inappropriate. Both times he failed to break 80.
But instead of mailing it in at Shinnecock, Daly put up a 74, which was better than the rest of the field averaged that day. Perhaps he felt a sense of obligation. "There's no way I'd get up to see John Daly play at 9 a.m., but there were thousands of people out there," he said. "It's wonderful what the fans do for me."