July 29, 2005
By Dave Shedloski
PGATOUR.com Senior Correspondent
Former U.S. Open and British Open champion Ernie Els is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his left knee Thursday. Els suffered the injury last week while on a sailing holiday in the Mediterranean, according to information on the player’s website, ErnieEls.com.
Els, the No. 3 player in the world, has withdrawn from the PGA Championship, which is August 11-14 at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, N.J. It is not known if he will be recovered in time to compete for the International Team in the Presidents Cup in September at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Lake Manassas, Va.
“I’m going to have to take a break from golf on the recommendation of my medical advisers. Basically it’s the only sensible course of action, so that I can be sure of the promptest recovery period,” Els, 35, said on his website. “Obviously the timing is unfortunate, although … there’s no such thing as a good time to get injured. There’s no point dwelling on your bad luck. All I’m doing is focusing on getting better as quickly as possible, so I’m out of action for not a day longer than I have to be.”
The injury is a blow to a player who has won three times abroad this year, but has had a disappointing season in the major championships after he was one of two players who finished in the top 10 in all four major championships a year ago. Els, who has homes in Wentworth, England, Orlando, Fla. and his native South Africa, finished joint 15th at the U.S. Open. He was not in contention at the Masters or British Open, finishing 47th and joint 35th, respectively.
“Ernie's a friend, so I feel for him,” former U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk said at the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Mich. “I went through a wrist surgery last year, and obviously right now, this is knee surgery, I don't know how major of a surgery that it was. I wish him well and I wish him first and foremost a full recovery.
“We'll miss him out of here and I know our tournament sponsors and our fans will miss him,” Furyk added. “He's a huge draw and obviously a wonderful player, being ranked No. 3 in the world. It will be a big loss for the TOUR, but he'll be back soon.”
Els, known as the Big Easy and one of the game’s most popular players because of his talent and his friendly demeanor, owns 15 PGA TOUR titles and 41 international crowns.
“Our best wishes go to Ernie for a speedy recovery following his recent knee surgery,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “His presence will be missed at the remainder of this year’s PGA TOUR events and during the upcoming Presidents Cup. We all know what a tough competitor he is and are confident he will rejoin the TOUR as soon as he can.”
As the third-ranked player in the world, Els is expected to be one of the leaders for the International Team at the sixth Presidents Cup. He and Tiger Woods staged a memorable playoff duel two years ago in George, South Africa, in a match that eventually led to the first tie in Presidents Cup history.
If Els should not return in time for the matches, scheduled for Sept. 22-25, the International Team would be without its second-highest ranked player behind Vijay Singh. But International Team captain Gary Player wasn’t dwelling on losing one of his top players but, rather, how it would affect Els’ career.
“I am devastated to hear of Ernie’s accident, and while I still hope he will recover in time to play in the Presidents Cup, most important of all is that he takes the time to fully recover and recuperate so that he can come back even stronger,” Player said from Europe, where he is doing course design work. “Who knows? Perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise to force him to take a break.”
U.S. team captain Jack Nicklaus was unavailable for comment.
Players from both sides said Els’ potential absence from the Presidents Cup could have a significant impact on the matches.
“It's sad that it happened, not only just for the Presidents Cup but for the rest of his year,” Singh said. “I'm sure he's disappointed. I'm sure we're all disappointed. I'm sure the Presidents Cup team is going to be disappointed he cannot play. But just having him there, I think it would be a nice thing to just show up and be part of the team anyway, be supportive that way.”
“I guess with the PGA (Championship) coming up, everyone is going to miss him there,” Australia’s Robert Allenby said. “I think as far as the Presidents Cup goes, I mean, he has a major role there. He is obviously … Vijay is in there, but Ernie is the man that normally you put against someone like Tiger and competes against him, and enjoys competing against him. I think for the Presidents Cup team for the International side, it's a huge loss.”
“It’s certainly a big blow to the International team,” Loren Roberts said at the U.S. Senior Open in Kettering, Ohio. “But you look at the rankings and they have a lot of guys to choose from who can step right in.
“No one ever wants to miss a major,” Roberts added. “But if you look at it in Vijay Singh terms, Ernie has got a lot of time. He’s fit, and he’ll be back.”
I really thought that Ernie was going to have a monster year giving Tiger and Vijay a run for their money but it just isn't happening for him.