Ernie Els: Underachiever, or, Great Golfer and Globetrekker Extroardinaire

After a 6:24 a.m. phone call from the Cynic’s publishing company, Denton Publications, and the upstairs neighbor’s blaring TV set at 6:39, the illusion of getting back to sleep vanished.

But after perusing some of my favorite Internet haunts, I came across this lead-in to a golf story on

“Long thought to be an underachiever who plays too much golf around the globe, Ernie Els will invoke some big changes to his schedule for the 2008 season in hopes of some more major hardware.” (Story here)

In his “Weekly 18” segment, our man, Jason Sobel –– a senior golf editor at and previously famous at The Looper for his foray into caddying –– throws around a label for the Big Easy that I had kind of heard before but had not noticed anywhere with the display space of the golf page. And I must disagree.

Maybe you can joke in your caddyshack, around your poker table, by the water cooler, or in your fishing shanty about Els’ shortcomings as a golfer –– incredible talent but only thre majors to show for it –– but there are few more accomplished players in the game of golf right now. Calling a man with three major championships an underachiever in the Age of Tiger is preposterous.

There are only two currently active golfers –– and that’s really a stretch at this point –– who have more major wins than Ernie Els: Tiger Woods (13) and Nick Faldo (6). There are only two others with three majors (Vijay Singh and Phil Mickelson) and only four golfers still active with two majors (John Daly, Retief Goosen, Sandy Lyle and Jose Maria Olazabal).

Are we calling Els an underachiever in that crowd?

I don’t think so. If any big name golfer can be considered a true underachiever, I would nominate Davis Love III and not because I almost caddied for him. Love was so good for so long and only has one major to show for it. At this point in his career, those close to him have conceded his heart is not into being the best in the world any longer.

Admittedly, Els one of the most gifted golfers in the world, but whether or not he follows the Tiger Woods track to success (fewer total events, more scheduling strategy) is completely his prerogative and I applaud him for, up until now, doing things his way.

I’m pretty sure there’s more to life than golf, or major championships, or millions in endorsements. Those are all nice things, but to measure someone’s success or achievement on those terms is unfortunate.

If I had it my way, obviously Tiger is tops. Among the world’s other top-tier pro golfers, I’d certainly take Ernie’s game and jet-setting, globe-trekking lifestyle over Phil’s rumored gambling issues, and I would most definitely take Ernie’s life over John Daly’s incredible talents (Tiger Woods has called him the most talented golfer on the PGA Tour) and domestic troubles.

Note to Ernie: Keep doing your thing, baby. If you want a travel buddy I’ll have my cell phone at the ready.


One response to “Ernie Els: Underachiever, or, Great Golfer and Globetrekker Extroardinaire

  1. We love Ern, ever since we got to know his as a junior in J’burg.

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