Mr. Match Play and The Greens Monster
After the International division of the Andersen Consulting World Championship of Golf concluded on July 29 at Blackwolf Run in Kohler, Wis., two things were clear. One, Ernie Els is the world's best match-play player. Two, ladies, rev up your engines because you'll have your hands full when the U.S. Women's Open comes to Blackwolf Run next year.
It was no surprise that Els advanced to next January's Andersen semis in Scottsdale, Ariz. He has been playing well all summer. He has also won three straight World Match Play titles and had a 3-1-1 record in last year's Presidents Cup. "Ernie is so tough because he has such a good short game," says Nick Price, whose divisional semifinal match against Els in the Andersen ended when Els chipped in for eagle at the 16th hole. "People don't give him enough credit for his chipping. Plus he's hitting his long irons so straight."
In the final, Els withstood a charge by Steve Elkington to win 2 up. Els eagled a par-5 on the front nine but didn't clinch the match until Elkington, who had dispatched Greg Norman in the semis, went for the pin at the 18th and twice hit into the water.
Els, who won $200,000, will face Colin Montgomerie (the European division winner) in January. Davis Love III (U.S.) will play Hajime Meshiai (Japan) in the other semifinal. First prize is $1 million.
Beside Els, the other hot topic at Blackwolf Run was the course's undulating greens. "If you halved the slope on these greens, they would still be severe," says Price. "I feel sorry for the amateurs here. I wouldn't be surprised if a good 10- or 12-handicapper had nine three-putts out here."
Elkington agreed. "This course is hard from tee to green, but even if you hit a nice long iron to 20 feet," he says, "you probably have a double breaker with a hump in the middle. Some of the slope has to come out."
Price said that because of the greens, the men's U.S. Open would never come to Blackwolf Run. Obviously he had not consulted with the USGA, which will hold the Women's Open on the course next year. "Good luck to them," says Els. "They'd better start practicing putting down a bathtub."
The Shag Bag
Fred Couples and Davis Love III were named on Monday to represent the U.S. in the Nov. 12-15 World Cup of Golf at the Ocean Course on Kiawah Island, S.C. Couples and Love won the international two-man competitions from 1992 to '95. Tiger Woods declined to participate, citing his busy Asian and Hawaiian schedule that month....