Ernie Els Has a Ben Crenshaw Moment

On the eve of the 1999 Ryder Cup singles matches, with the Americans hopelessly behind 10 – 6, Captain Ben Crenshaw famously predicted that his team would rally for what everyone knew was a highly improbable victory.

Inspired by his prophesy, the Americans won Sunday’s singles matches 8 1/2 to 3 1/2 to retain the cup. Here’s Crenshaw’s twelve second motivational comment:

I’m going to leave y’all with one thought and then I’m gonna leave. I’m a big believer in fate. [Pregnant pause…and then pensively wagging his finger] I have a good feeling about this. That’s all I’m gonna tell you.

And then he rose from the interview table and left without further comment.

In yesterday’s preview post, “Adam Scott: Teed Up to Win His First Major,” I wrote these comments about Ernie Els long shot chances of winning this year’s British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes and his view of his chances:

One of the nice stories to come out of Saturday is that one of the 68s belonged to Ernie Els. That puts him at 5-under and T5 with Zach Johnson. The reason that it’s a nice story is that Ernie had fallen on hard times in recent years, but he had begun to turn it around at the end of last year.

He had a burst just prior to the Masters, but unfortunately it wasn’t sufficient to get him into the Masters. After all these years, it was a little different without having Ernie Els at the Masters.

He has pressed on with a playoff loss in New Orleans and finishing 9th at the U.S. Open. And now here he is right in the thick of this one. Granted, he’s six shots back, but if it really does blow Sunday, one can imagine Adam Scott’s tall, elegant swing getting knocked a little off kilter, getting a little less expressive in an attempt not to make a mistake. Without wishing anyone ill, surely the leaders backing up was in Els’ mind in the media center:

For some reason I’ve got some belief this week.  I feel something special can happen.  I feel I’ve put in a lot of work the last couple of — let’s call it the last couple of years, especially the last couple of months.  So something good is bound to happen, so hopefully it’s tomorrow.

Els managed to shoot a 2-under 68, Scott shot 5-over, 77, including a collapse over the last four holes with four bogeys. And in windswept conditions on a very tough course, that seven-shot swing gave the trophy to Els.

Sunday evening, the media remembered his comments and, now that they had proved out, wanted to know more about them.

You said last night that you had a very good feeling about today.  What was that good feeling and has that good feeling now come to fruition?

Well, obviously it has, yeah.  It’s amazing this game, you know.  You have a positive feel, you give yourself positive vibes, sometimes positive things happen.  And I think I’ve been in such a negative mode for a while, and now that I’m starting to feel more positive, obviously things happen, especially on the back nine where I haven’t really done the job.  Especially at the U.S. Open, I had an outside chance and didn’t quite capitalize.

When you made the turn you were six back.  Did you still have a good feeling then?  Nobody was putting pressure on Adam.  Did you have a plan on the back that you thought might work and get you there?

Yeah, I still felt — I bogeyed 9, I was really angry with myself at 9 and that almost set me in a different mindset.  It really got me aggressive.  I hit a lot of drivers on the back nine and I was just trying to make birdies.  I felt good.  I didn’t feel like — I wasn’t ahead, I wasn’t behind, I was right in the moment, for once.  I was really just playing the shot in the moment.

Yeah, when you’ve been around as long as I have, you’ve seen a lot of things happen.  And I just felt that the golf course is such — if you just doubt it a little bit, it was going to bite you.  There’s too many bunkers, too much trouble, and there was a bit of a breeze.  So I felt I was going to hit the shots and I felt — I still felt I had a chance.

Also in your victory speech, Ernie, you mentioned to the crowd, did they really believe you were going to win?  Did you really believe there was another major in you, after such a gap of winning?

For a long — I won’t say a long time — I think last year, no, I thought I had no chance.  Last year was really a pretty big hole.  But since the start of the year and especially the last month or two, I started seeing some better signs and started believing in that.

Just to touch on the fact you said that emotionally you had struggled for a while, do you think the secret to getting the success back in your game has been going back to being the Big Easy and being more laid back again?

Yeah, well, that’s easier said than done, isn’t it?  This game is a tough game we play.  It’s a physical game.  It’s a mental game.  You’ve got to have your wits with you, otherwise you have a missing link and it doesn’t quite all come together.  So to play the game as long as I have, for 23 years now as a professional, you’re bound to go through every emotion out there and most of the things happen to you.

As I said before, I’ve done what Adam has done before.  Just about everything that can happen in the game of golf, I’ve gone through.

So to come through all that and sit here and speak to you guys with the Claret Jug is crazy.  And it comes from a good attitude, yeah, being a bit more relaxed and believing in yourself.

I know you’ve done so much work on your putting from trying to retrain your eyes and just out on the practice green constantly.  Can you take us through that last putt, because that really began to change everything once that thing went in?  And it went in on a great line with great speed.

That’s the thing; when you’ve been where I was, you have no confidence in putting, you don’t want to have that one coming back.  You guys have heard that so many times, but that’s the situation I was in.  I was coasting everything up to the hole and wasn’t giving the hole a scare.

It comes from retraining your whole outlook on putting.  And that’s why I started working with [Dr. Sherylle Calder], just changed the whole thing, mindset, training, everything. And I was really going from a totally different angle, which I liked, because I tried everything else.

And then slowly, surely, obviously in March I looked like an absolute fool.  People were laughing at me and making jokes about me and really hitting me low, saying I’m done and I should hang it up.

So to come through and make a putt like that and make pressure putts on the back nine, that was the whole goal.  That was the whole thing.  Going through all the different feelings and process, all the process we were going through.  So to sit here with it now is quite satisfying.

Belief is a powerful thing, even when the evidence has yet to show up.

This entry was posted in Accomplishment, Awareness, Confidence, Consciousness, Mastery, Mastery Sunday, Putting, Self Realization and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.