Taking it Easy

We caught up with Ernie Els at the opening of his latest course design - the fabulous Els Club Teluk Datai on Langkawai - to talk about his growing business concerns, his major championship victories and a certain bar in the Caribbean.

The course might be without bunkers but that doesn't make it any less than a fantastic test

You struggled for a while before making your way on to the PGA Tour. What were the challenges for young Ernie back then?

Well, I look at youngsters now trying to get on the PGA Tour: the competition is only getting stronger and stronger from right around the world, and there are some seriously great players. I was fortunate to get on the South African Tour and tried the European Tour a little bit in the early days, but for some reason I kept missing in America. Then I got a card in Europe and started making some waves there. I then had some very good breaks in South Africa. I won the South African Open and that got me some invites to play in the Sates and then I won the U.S. Open in 1994. So a lot of good things happened to me at an early age, as well as a lot of luck.

You once described 1992 as the year that changed your life and effectively turned things around for you. What was so significant about your achievements that year?

Well that year was the year when I won the South African Open and even today the South African Open gets you into events around the world, as well as The Open Championship. I also won the South African PGA and the Masters and before that Gary Player was the only guy to do that. So, a very good year for me in South Africa, got me a tour card in Europe and then I followed that up by finishing fifth at The Open the next year, so everything happened very quickly in about a two-year span that started with the ‘92 SA Open.

You are the proud holder of four majors and 70 worldwide professional tournament wins. Do you have a favourite?

Any time you lift a trophy it’s a wonderful and memorable moment. The joy is indescribable, but to pick one of the majors over the other is very hard to do. When I was young, I was very cocky and use to think I’m going to win them all by nomination. I thought The Masters was going to be the first one I’d win and then The Open, and then U.S. Open and PGA Championship. Well, I haven’t won the Masters so far and I haven’t won the PGA, so I’m going to try to win the Masters before I retire. To achieve this would possibly be my biggest career achievement.

So you’ve played around the world, do you have a favourite course or maybe a course where you are the crowd favourite?

Well it definitely used to be Wentworth, especially when we played the World Match Play there. I won that a record seven times and my kids were born there. We’ve still got the house there, but we live in Florida a bit more now. That’s one of my really favourite venues and the course certainly likes me. The course that I like the most right now, though, is in Langkawi, but you knew I was going to say that!


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