Ernie Els has won three major championships. He once stood over a putt in the darkness against Tiger Woods to save the Presidents Cup at Fancourt with his entire homeland of South Africa counting on him. And this spring he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
So Monday at TPC Boston, with Els teetering around level par for the day and somewhere just inside the top 20 at the Deutsche Bank Championship, surely he could not have sensed much pressure as he stood in the fairway at the par-5 18th hole, hands on his hips, and contemplated his second shot. He knew he needed birdie, but really, for a guy who has accomplished so much in this game, so what? I mean, really – all in good fun, right?
But Els’ FedEx playoff existence was on the line. Pretty serious stuff.
“You’re actually (expletive deleted) yourself,” Els said candidly, flashing a smile, the adrenaline still running through his veins. “I’ve got 186 (yards) front, 210 to the hole, and you’re not sure what the wind is doing. It’s coming this way, that way. You need to hit it over the hazard, but you can’t hit it too long … basically, the same stuff that goes through your head when you’ve got a one-shot lead, or you’re trying to win a tournament.”
He missed the green long, but got up and down for birdie, converting his 6-footer to slip inside the top 70, earning a berth to the BMW Championship that will begin a week from Thursday in Chicago.