‘Feels like a silly season of golf’


Ernie Els was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2010.

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Ernie Els understands the temptation of LIV Golf, especially for players of a certain age.

Heck, he was there himself just a few years ago.

“From 45 to 50, you’re nowhere,” Els, now 52, ​​said the other day while looking out over the golf course at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey. “You are no longer the player you used to be. You can’t compete. It’s an awkward moment.”

Els, who is a legend of the sport in his homeland of South Africa thanks to his more than 70 wins around the world, including four major championship titles, was reflecting on the decision some of his fellow professionals have made to, in effect, severing ties with the PGA and DP World tours in exchange for large payouts from LIV Golf.

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Some of those notable LIV commitments: Bryson DeChambeau, 28; Talor Gooch, 30; Abraham Ancer, 31, are still in their prime. But many more: Phil Mickelson, 52; Lee Westwood, 49; Pat Perez, 46; Ian Poller, 46; Graeme McDowell, 42; Sergio Garcia, 42, are at stages in their careers where competing for paychecks against, in many cases, players half his age has become a daunting proposition.

So when a new league comes along with nine-figure signing bonuses and $25 million non-stop events, the pull is strong, regardless of the source of the payments, which, in this case, happens to be a government with lousy human rights record. (Even PGA Tour veteran Rory McIlroy acknowledged the appeal earlier this week, saying, “I understand why guys went, especially guys who are in the latter stages of their careers and if I were in their position, it would be serious to have to think about doing the same.”)

Among the other LIV signatories are three of Els’s compatriots: Branden Grace, 34; Luis Oosthuizen, 39; and Charl Schwartzel, 37, who won the debut LIV event in London last month. Els said none of those players consulted him before signing LIV: “They’re too shy to talk to me,” he said, but he has thought about what he would have told them.

“I would have said, ‘You have to think about it,’” Els said. “I understand guys leaving for the money, it’s a ridiculous amount, and you get to a certain point in your career, you have to consider it. But-“

And this is a great but for Els.

“—it is no longer golf as we know it. It is a very different product.”

Much of LIV, of course, looks exactly like golf as we know it. Sticks and balls. Birdies and bogeys. Streets and flagpoles. But that’s not what Els was referring to. It’s LIV’s format that can’t pass: the absence of the pure meritocracy (win at midfield or go home with nothing) that is an inherent and integral part of virtually every other major tour.

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“If it was a 72-hole system, then you would have to look at it,” Els said. “But it’s 54 holes, no cuts, shotgun start. It feels like it’s a silly golf season.” Els said it would be nice if the major tours got together during the off-season to play an unconventional style of golf like LIV has envisioned, but he can’t understand LIV’s format of everyone getting a trophy as a credible way. way to test and identify the best golfers in the world.

“Go play this type of format for three or four months and have fun,” he said. “But then go play real golf after that. That’s how I feel like I probably should have gone down, but it didn’t.”

Despite his Hall of Fame resume, Els knows what it feels like to go years without winning, to struggle to make cuts. She won her 19th PGA Tour title, the 2012 Open Championship, when she was 42 years old. He never reached a 20th win. In 2017, three years shy of turning 50, Els earned $155,926 on the PGA Tour; a year later, he deposited just $102,868.

If a rival tour was signing players then would Els have jumped ship for guaranteed money?

“I would have been against it,” he said. “You would have to look at it, yes, but I have really great sponsors. I have really great people supporting me. We have our autism effort. Many things are at stake for me. In my case, it’s not just about taking the money and see you later. There [would be] many consequences.”

That, and a nagging feeling in the stomach.

“It just doesn’t leave a good feeling, does it?” Els told of LIV’s progress. “It just doesn’t feel right.”

Alan Bastable

Alan Bastable Publisher

As Executive Editor of, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most highly trafficked and respected news sites and services. He wears many hats (editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming about one day turning 80) and feels privileged to work with an incredibly talented and hard-working group of writers, editors, and producers. Before taking the reins at, he was a feature editor for GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and Columbia Journalism School, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and his four children.