MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA (AP) - Ernie Els knows what Royal Melbourne can do to a golfer, probably more than anyone.
Els was a member of the International team that won the Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne in 1998 and had three straight wins on the Alister Mackenzie-designed course at the Heineken Classic.
His last came in 2004, when he missed a chance at a magical 59 by one stroke in the opening round and nearly squandered an eight-shot lead in the final round before eking out a win over Adam Scott.
“I’ve had some great tournaments here in the past, a great win in ‘98 for our team,” Els said Tuesday. “It’s always nice having some experience winning on it.”
Els also finished second in the Heineken in 2005, the last tournament that was held at Royal Melbourne, which also coincided with Els‘ last visit to play Down Under. The memories from the course, and particularly from 1998, are still vivid.
“We jelled very well as a team,” Els said. “I remember watching us play on the 18th hole, seeing some really big shots pulled off by the team, some amazing chip-ins. That was a really a great factor, we got the crowd behind us, and we rode that wave.”
Els is mystified _ actually he referred to it as “crazy,” that the Internationals haven’t won since.
“I’ve been playing (on Presidents Cup teams) ever since 1996, and obviously lost quite a few times,” Els said. “We had one tie (in South Africa in 2003), so it’s hard to take. We don’t really want to keep losing this thing.”
There are five Australians on the International team _ Scott, Geoff Ogilvy, Jason Day and Greg Norman’s captain’s picks Robert Allenby and Aaron Baddeley _ three South Koreans, three South Africans, including Els, and Japanese 20-year-old Ryo Ishikawa.
“I love this team,” Els said. “The Aussie boys are ready, a lot of them are playing really good golf.”
Add to that Els‘ countryman and this year’s Masters winner Charl Schwartzel.
“He’s got the perfect ball flight for these greens,” Els said. “So he’s ready to go.”
Asked about pairings, Els suggested it didn’t matter who played with who on the Internationals.
“We’re professional golfers and we know that we need to win points, no matter who you play with,” Els said. “We can’t keep huffing on about it.”