PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

Els isn't going down without a fight

By Tim Rosaforte Illustrations by Andy Friedman
May 12, 2010

Of all the beat-downs suffered by Ernie Els at the hands of Tiger Woods over the past decade, none was more illustrative of their one-sided rivalry than the 2000 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. After tying for second, 15 strokes back, a totally demoralized Els came to the press tent and answered question after question about Woods. Ten years later, the questions are still coming, but Els, 40, might finally have his payback when the U.S. Open returns to Pebble in June. After winning back-to-back starts on the PGA Tour in March, Els is playing like the man who won three majors before he turned 33, and not the one who won only once on tour from 2005-'09. "It's like old times," says his caddie, Ricci Roberts. No coincidence, Els has taken advantage of Woods' absence from pro golf to jump-start his career. He has moved back into the top 10 in the World Golf Ranking. "I'm a different player. I'm a different person," says Els, who links his on-course struggles in part to an injury and his desire to spend more time with his family. (His 7-year-old son, Ben, has autism.) "My head is ticking a little bit differently now."... Hunter Mahan caught a bad break when his approach on the 70th hole of last year's U.S. Open ricocheted off the flagstick and resulted in a bogey, perhaps costing him the tournament. But he caught a good one when he started dating former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader Kandi Harris. Mahan's win in Phoenix is an example of what swing coach Sean Foley means when he says, "The good things we're seeing are a function of a guy in love."... Jack Nicklaus came up with an interesting way for his golf-course construction company to be a part of a 63-hole facility in Malaysia that is being designed by women only. Nicklaus suggested wife Barbara as the designer to the developers of Mines Golf City on the basis that she has walked more holes than any woman on earth. When Jack told Barbara, she laughed and asked for a cubicle at the office.