ERNIE WILL BE BACK – GURU
With one victory , a string of top 10s and worldwide earnings of more than $3 million, your average pro would be happy with 2006. Trouble is Ernie Els is no average golfer.
With a victory at the Dunhill Championship, a string of top tens on both sides of the Atlantic and worldwide earnings of more than $3 million, your average professional golfer would be pretty happy with the 2006 season. Trouble is Ernie Els is no average golfer.
And he is not happy.
So much so that the three-time major winner and one-time World No 1 has taken a temporary break from his caddy, Ricci Roberts, and has sought the services of renowned sports psychologist Jos Vanstiphout, who has worked with Els in the past and among his many other achievements, helped turn Retief Goosen into a two-time US Open champion.
Roberts and Els are expected to team up again at the Nedbank Challenge in December, but in the meantime both feel being apart might be for the best at this moment in time
Roberts, who like the currently frustrated Els, likes to have his say out on the golf course, has acknowledged that it’s not easy carrying Els’ bag when he is not playing well.
“Imagine having to be the one to tell a triple major winner to go with an extra club on a shot he would normally nail without a second thought,” Roberts has been quoted as saying
Els, who has slipped back in the World Rankings to No 7 and is worried by his inability to win again since his knee operation last year, made the call to Vanstiphout just over a month ago in the hope that the mind guru would short-cut his return to the top.
“He called me and told me we should work together again,” Van Stiphout told the Johannesburg Sunday Times at the weekend.
“He said he wants the short cut to get back to where he was, so we’ve drawn up a two year plan and have started working on it.
“The goal is for Ernie to become as good as he can be for he is really the only player in the world with the ability to chase Tiger (Woods).”
What then is the “Big Easy’s” problem.
Has his knee operation damaged his swing or effected his fitness and his ability to keep his focus over 72 holes?
Or is it maybe a loss of confidence in his putting that is letting him down?
It’s none of those things the sports-wise psychologist insists.
“His problem,” says Vanstiphout, “Is that there is no problem – and I have to convince him of that otherwise I will have failed.”
“Just one negative thought could destroy his self belief.”
Van Stiphout is convinced that Els has been focussing on too many things.
“It’s hard,” he said, “to stay at the top of this game when you are trying to focus on two or three things at the same time.
Els is never far from the top of the leaderboard but the fact that is no longer winning means he has dropped out of the limelight and is getting a lot less attention.
Van Stiphout sees this as being ‘perfect’ for his current situation.
“Everybody leaves him alone now.
“In the past few months Ernie has seen who his real friends are and he will remember them. Too many people have a false idea of what Ernie is.
“This thing about him being laid back and that he doesn’t care is a load of rubbish.
“Let me tell you nobody wants to succeed more than him”
Nobody believed Vanstiphout when he said similar things about Goosen, seemingly an even more phlegmatic character than Els – until The Goose came through with two US Open victories on some of most soul-destroying courses in the championship’s history and later admitted he sometimes boiled inside, even when his outward appearance was as cool as the Atlantic Ocean’s Benguela current that comes up from the Antartic and rubs against Cape Town.
They have parted since, but like Els, Goosen might also have to make a phone call, because his ability to hold on and win when the going gets tough has seemed to have ebbed away in the past two seasons when he has let too many big titles slip through his fingers and left it up to Trevor Immelman and some of his country’s other young guns to keep the South African flag flying.
Nobody reaches the heights that Els has, however, without being truly competitive and Vanstiphout can clearly see the old Lion in Els’ soul changing this trend with a fight back that is set to make it clear that the king of the African continent is not about to abdicate.
“You know me,” says Vanstiphout, getting in a last word, “I don’t bullshit.
“When I say that even at 8O%; even a limping Ernie can come back and win any tournament he wants, I mean it.
“Watch him over the next two years. He’s going to kick some arse. Believe me.”
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