CA Championship Shines Spotlight On South Africans
MIAMI;| No matter how the final round had
turned out Sunday at the CA Championship
at Doral, South African golf was going to
be a huge winner in the $8.5 million World
Golf Championships event. That immensely
popular Ernie Els, a national hero, ultimately
prevailed by four shots over peach-fuzz
countryman Charl Schwartzel only made it
that much sweeter to savor.
“All credit to Ernie today,” Schwartzel
said. “He played flawless golf.”
After the WGC-Accenture Match Play in
Tucson, Els invited him to stay at his home in
Jupiter, Fla. He was there
for nine days, and they
practiced together and
played several rounds
at nearby Seminole.
Schwartzel was back at
Els’ home again Sunday
night after their duel at
Doral, though Els had
joked Saturday that depending on the final
No worries now.
Schwartzel, a burgeoning presence on the
European Tour, is largely unknown to Ameri-
can golf fans, though that surely changed
dramatically Sunday. This season, he won
the first two European Tour events, the Africa
Open and the Joburg Open, both in South
Africa. At Joburg, he was 23 under and won
by six shots.
“I think it’s a wonderful, cool story,” Els
said. “It’s great for South African golf, obvi-
ously. World golf, obviously, a new young
star, a 25-year-old really making his mark
this year. He’s won twice. He’s a force to be
Even better news: Els, a huge fan favorite
Sunday, is excited about playing again and
has been working diligently to get back to
once more being reckoned with as well.
Going into Doral, he had only one victory
The next season, Els ruptured the anteri-
– the 2008 Honda – in the U.S. since 2004,
when he earned a career-high $5.7 million
and won three times.
or cruciate ligament in his left knee when he
was being pulled on an inner tube during a
boating holiday, an injury that ended his 2005
season in July and clearly affected his game
for several years. It was the Big Easy morph-
ing into the Big Uneasy.
Els’ focus on golf also became less of a
priority ever since he and his wife, Liezl, de-
cided last year to disclose that their 8-year-
old son, Ben, was autistic. They established
the Els for Autism Foundation last spring
and are out-front advocates to help find the
cause and the cure.
“Should we keep it very private and deal
with it, or as we’ve seen, there are so many
families that are touched by it,” Els said.
“And every time I speak to people, even at
Ben’s school, you can see the pain and frus-
tration. I thought if we came out, everybody
thinks we do have great lives, but in a lot of
ways, we are very similar to everybody out
But not on a golf course, where Els has
been a superstar ever since he won his first
U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1994 at age 24 and
prevailed again in 1997 at Congressional.
This year, Els said he wanted to rededicate
his efforts and try to get back into the major
championship mix. Now, for the first time in
a long while, his game is approaching that
same lofty level, and his victory here surely
will affirm all that hard work was clearly
worth the effort.