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More Confessions of a Weekend Golfer: With Ernie Els
at the Honda Classic

Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Tiger Woods, May/June 2008

(continued from page 1)

It was now 1:15—time to move to the putting green. After we all practiced our putting, it was off to the tee box of hole No. 1. Of course, there were spectator stands and all kinds of course marshals, official scorers and announcers milling around.

This time I was only a little anxious. It wasn't at all like when I played along with Tiger Woods at the pro-am of the 2005 Buick Open and almost had a heart attack. I was a veteran now.

As we were each announced, we stepped up to the tee. First was Ernie, playing from the tips. He hit it so far I couldn't see where it landed. Then the four amateurs moved to the blue tees. Joel and Jeff hit their drives far but in the left rough. Joe Theismann, a 4-handicap, drilled it down the fairway—a long way. The Shotmaker hit a nice, smooth drive down the left side, in the fairway. We were off.

Jeff started off slowly, but by the fourth hole he got his game together. He closed the ninth hole, a par 4, with an amazing birdie. Net two. Joel had a remarkable day for a 10-handicapper, including parring the par-3 seventh hole after an errant tee shot into deep rough on the left. Joe Theismann is a real golfer. More I can't say. He has a complete game. He drilled every tee shot, center cut, down the fairway. He had lots of pars.

Ernie is Ernie. An amazing game with great distance and accuracy. I could go on for hours about his game!

I basically played bogey golf. Shot a 46 on the front. Two highlights.

On hole No. 8, a par 4, I hit a great drive down the middle. Just in front of the green is a creek. To clear the creek I had about 180 yards into the wind. Everyone told me to lay up. But I wanted to go for it. Theismann ran over, picked up my ball and teed it up in the fairway. We all laughed. Ernie said, "Shotmaker, go for it."

Randy, my caddie, handed me my Callaway FTi driver. I bombed one over the creek, just to the front right of the green. There was nice applause from the gallery, and cheers from my team members. And on nine, a dogleg left, 360-yard par 4, I parred the hole with a nice 25-foot putt. I was the last to putt; we all smiled, shook hands and said our good-byes. Our team came in at 6 under for the nine holes. The winning team was 11 under.

I'm looking forward to coming back so I can play the Bear Trap. The day was great fun. Isn't that what golf is all about?

Monday morning, March 3, 2008
It's unbelievable. Last night, I watched on television as Ernie Els, starting the day three back, shot a 67 and won the Honda Classic. While he had won a number of overseas matches, he had not won a PGA tournament in the United States in nearly four years. This was a big victory for him, and as a result, he moved into the third position in the world golf ranking behind Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Finishing second was Luke Donald. A perfect setup for our upcoming challenge match. Who knows? Just maybe I brought Ernie luck by playing with him in the pro-am.

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