HONOLULU – Ernie Els has reached a point in his career where he will not be traveling as far, and making decisions based as much on his business ventures as the golf itself.
One of the first tournaments to go is the Scottish Open, which he has won twice and played the last nine years.
Els signed an endorsement deal with the Royal Bank of Canada, the title sponsor of the Canadian Open. The third-oldest national championship in golf falls at an awkward time in the PGA Tour schedule – one week after the British Open, two weeks before the start of a grueling stretch that includes a World Golf Championship, the PGA Championship and four FedEx Cup playoff events.
The Big Easy said he would be there.
“Yes, but I’m changing it up,” he said. “I’m not going to play the Scottish Open.”
Els said he wants to focus more on America, where he now spends most of his time, and where his children are in school. He also is trying to raise money for an autism center in Florida.
“I’m going to play less in Europe, play a bit more in Asia,” he said. “That’s good for the personal brand and stuff we do out there.”
On the list of tournaments he likely will play is the Asia-Pacific Classic in Malaysia, where he is designing golf courses. He said his wine label is doing well in South Korea, so he will be at the Ballantines Championship at the end of April.
“Then you look at China,” he said. “China is quite a big market in just about everything. You’ve got to show your face there every now and then. I’d like to do that at the end of the year.”
Els is taking a four-week break from golf after the Sony Open this week. He said he hasn’t done that, except for injury, since before he had children when Els and his wife would go home to South Africa. That means missing the Middle East swing on the European Tour. Els said his next event when be the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
Keeping an eye on business would seem to indicate a shift in his priorities, although Els said this has been going on for a few years.
“I’m just trying to position myself,” he said. “Obviously the world has changed the last few years. We used to have quite a bit of business in the U.S. That’s a little bit out the window now. You’ve got to look for work where it is. Asia is where it is.
“I’m definitely not thinking of retirement,” he said. “But I’m definitely positioning myself for when that day comes.”