Ernie Els arrived in Hawaii last January with renewed energy for 2005, a new season at his feet, the possibilities for a monster year endless.
“There’s a lot of good things that I want to do,” he said. “I’m still chasing the Grand Slam. So, you know, looking at majors, I would love to at least win a major this year. It sounds very cocky, but that’s always my mindset.”
He won’t get his major, at least not in 2005. Els’ season came to a crashing halt last week after having surgery July 28 to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the result of a sailing accident sustained while on holiday with his family in the Mediterranean.
Els will miss next week’s PGA Championship, as well as the Presidents Cup.
“Obviously the timing is unfortunate,” Els wrote on his Web site, ernieels.com. “I’m not dwelling on my bad luck. All I have to do now is focus on getting better, so I’m out of action for not a day longer than I have to be.”
The surgery was performed by Dr. Andrew Unwin at Princess Margaret Hospital in Windsor, England. Unwin expects Els to be able to pivot on the knee in six weeks, to be able to play “gentle golf” in eight weeks and be back playing competitively again in 16 weeks – roughly in time to get ready for the 2006 season.
“That’s a huge loss for all of us out here,” Tiger Woods said at the Buick Open.
This season, Els had five top 10s in 11 PGA Tour events, with his best finish a second at the Sony Open. He is 21st in earnings at $1.627 million.
On the PGA European Tour, Els won titles at Dubai and Qatar in early March, then won the BMW Asian Open in early May. He had six top 10s in 11 European Tour events this year and is No. 5 on the Order of Merit.
Following a year in which he had three top-4 finishes at the majors – and was a two-time runner-up, with near misses at the Masters and British Open – Els had a disappointing season at golf’s biggest events. He never contended in this season’s first three majors, his best finish being a tie for 15th at the U.S. Open.
The PGA at Baltusrol’s Lower Course, a power player’s delight, would present an opportunity to turn around his year in a single week. And now Els will be stuck at home, near London, watching on television. It will be the first major championship Els has missed since the 1993 Masters, a tournament for which he was not eligible at the time.
“It kind of epitomizes the year,” David Leadbetter, Els’ teacher, told The Orlando Sentinel. “Not a happy ending.”