Ernie Els: Playing Golf Still in His Top 3 Favorite Things to Do

Ernie Els, 1997 US Open, Congressional(STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP via Getty Images)
Ernie Els, 1997 US Open, Congressional(STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP via Getty Images) /

Ernie Els is a consummate, international man of the world.

He’s still a very good golfer, although past his prime major-winning days, and he still loves to play and compete. Saturday at Constellation Furyk & Friends, held at Timuquana CC in Jacksonville, Florida, he showed that Saturday is still moving day. He climbed up 17 places to get closer to the top spot.

In addition to playing golf around the world, Els has become a well-respected golf course designer with more than a dozen completed and others in construction. He just contracted to do one in Austin, Texas.

And of course, importantly, Els and his wife Liezl raise money for the Els for Autism Charity. In 2015 they opened the Els Center for Excellence in Jupiter, Florida.

Next season will be Els’ 30th playing in the U.S., now as a member of the PGA Tour Champions. He still loves the competition.

"” …that was the one mistake I made. I put my hot guy against Tiger, which backfired against me.”  – – Ernie Els on captaining the 2019 Presidents Cup"

“It’s in the top 3 still,” he said to media at the Constellation Furyk & Friends about his love for the sport. “Doing quite a bit of work, you know, design, and other stuff, but this is what I like to do.”

His next challenge is being a playing captain for the International Team in the newly created World Champions Cup which will be held in December.

“This type of team event, we’ve been calling for this type of thing to happen, for the three tours to play against each other, or the three entities, Internationals, Europeans and the U.S.,” Els said about the upcoming contest.

He has captaining experience from the Presidents Cup where the team came within an eyelash of beating the U.S. in 2019. The Internationals had a four-point lead at the end of play Saturday.  They just needed to beat the U.S. in singles, but it didn’t happen.

To this day, one of Els’ decisions, to play Abraham Ancer against Tiger Woods, haunts him.

"“Tiger was playing great back then,” Els said. “And that was the one mistake I made. I put my hot guy against Tiger, which backfired against me. I should have put a softer guy against Tiger. Anyway, that’s the one regret I have.”"

Ernie Els, Constellation Furyk & Friends, Els Center of Excellence, US Open, British Open, Golf History
Ernie Els, 1997 US Open, Congressional, (LUKE FRAZZA/AFP via Getty Images) /

Ernie Els has many other accomplishments to remember with pride.

He made a big splash when he came to the U.S. in 1994, playing and winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont GC. He still remembers some of the shots that helped him secure the victory in a playoff with Colin Montgomerie and Loren Roberts.

“The ones I’m going to mention, the 5-iron at Congressional still, even after all this time goes back,” Ernie Els recalled.

"“The putts I made in ’94 at Oakmont, that still blows my mind to think that I could have made all those putts. And then the bunker shot at Muirfield. So I’m going back to majors here. Yeah, Muirfield Village, winning there was very, very special. The shot into 18, it was Freddie (Couples) jumping at me, 7-iron in there. Yeah, we can go on and on.”"

He cautioned not to ask Bernhard Langer about memorable victories or shots because Langer has won more than 100 times. Wikipedia says Els has 75, which is nothing to sneeze at. It just shows that even those at the top sometimes don’t think they’ve done enough.

Els is 7th all-time in European titles, has 19 in the U.S., 15 on the Sunshine Tour, another 21 on other tours, 3 in Australasia, 3 on the Asian Tour, and 1 in Japan. The only continents he hasn’t won on are South America and Antarctica.

He has four majors, two U.S. Opens, one in 1994, and one in 1997 at Congressional, and two British Opens, in 2002 and 2012. He has six runner-up finishes in majors, once at the U.S. Open, twice at the Masters, and three times at the British Open.

Like Phil Mickelson, if had he played at a time when Tiger Woods was not dominant, his victory total could easily be 100 with a significant number of additional majors.

Ernie Els has many years ahead of him on PGA Tour Champions.

Next. Memories abound at Constellation Furyk & Friends for David Duval. dark

Right now, he’s 7th in the Schwab Cup standings, which determines who will be in the Schwab Cup Playoffs toward the season finale. But from his past tournament victories, it’s easy to see the Schwab Cup is probably not his last tournament in 2023.