Els: 20-Somethings Lucky Not to Be Scarred From a Dominant Tiger
By Stephanie Wei under European PGA Tour

Ernie Els, the defending champion of this week’s WGC event played at the TPC Blue Monster, gave an especially engrossing press conference on Tuesday afternoon at Doral. I mean, my eyes didn’t glaze over once! Not that happens often, of course. But you know, I just found much of what he had to say very informative and interesting, particularly when he talked about being atop the rankings and the impact of Tiger’s dominance.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling (to be number one in the world); to look at the ranking and all the way to the top, there’s no one ahead of you,” said Els. “It’s a great feeling. I had it a long time ago and felt great. You walk out, and there’s a certain appreciation that you have for it, and then obviously a certain respect from the players. They look at you a little differently and you feel differently and really on top of the world.

“For Martin (Kaymer) to have it at 26 (years old), it’s a great feeling. Obviously Tiger had it since he’s been, I don’t know how old. But you know, it’s really an unbelievable feeling. It’s almost like winning a major. It’s that kind of feeling.”

I had a thought-provoking chat with Martin Hardy, a member of Team Chubby (Chandler), last Sunday about the new world order and European dominance (at the end of the day it’s cyclical). We were discussing the 20-something-year-old players winning more, which obviously is a direct effect of Tiger not kicking everyone’s butt every week, but also there’s the psychological component. I wasn’t covering golf during Tiger’s heyday, so I can’t appreciate it fully, either — which was Rory McIlroy’s comments that resulted in unfair criticism.

My ears perked up when Martin said Sergio Garcia and Adam Scott, who are now the 30-somethings that never lived up to their expectations, were completely ruined because of getting mentally beaten down from Tiger’s dominance. It makes total sense, right? (I mean, duh, but sorry, I’m young.)

The current 20-somethings, like McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, etc., aren’t marred from Tiger’s dominance, which Els pointed out today.

I played for ten years when that guy dominated, so it’s tough to get a different mind-set on things. Tiger was the dominant player. He won 14 majors. Think about it, 14 majors, in such a short period of time. Who is ever going to do that again? Who knows? That is pretty dominating.

So for us, myself, Phil, Vijay, Davis, Fred Couples, guys like that to have played under a guy who was that good, we took a beating, not only from him, but from you guys, too. It’s been a tough — it was a tough ten, 12 years for us. So to see kind of the new world out there, you know, with these young players coming through, Martin No. 1, Lee Westwood was No. 1 for a while. Lee has been around for a while, too, but the youngsters, they have got something going for them.

They didn’t have to play under a guy that was so dominant and I don’t think they will ever appreciate how good Tiger was back then. He could do it again, who knows. He’s just got to sort out the new swing again. He’s so mentally strong that he could well dominate again. But at that level, who knows, I don’t know. It would be unfair for me to really comment more on that.

It’s nice to see that the 20-somethings are actually producing now. They have started winning majors now and they are winning tournaments. It’s basically almost their time to shine now and for us to do what we can.

I think that’s Ernie passing on the torch. More food for thought: This makes Vijay Singh’s and Phil Mickelson’s accomplishments extra impressive.