Els frowns on penalising two young Asians at majors

Decision to target Guan and Matsuyama for slow play too much of a co-incidence, says champ as he signs up for his first Macau Open

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 4:18am

Four-time major winner Ernie Els has questioned the timing and motivation behind the decision to penalise two Asian players for slow play at the US Masters in April and last month's Open Championship in Scotland.

Chinese prodigy Guan Tianlang, 14, was docked one stroke after his second round at Augusta - but still made the cut and finished as the event's leading amateur, while 20-year-old Japanese star Hideki Matsuyama suffered the same fate during the third round at The Open before finishing the event tied for sixth.

"I think they could have handled it differently," said Els. "But to do it in two major events and to two Asian players is too much of a coincidence.

"I know they are trying to get stroke play going, to get these guys playing faster. To do it in the biggest events in front of all those people is not really making our game look better. It should be done in a different way than going out and giving a guy a penalty in a major."

Els, 43, yesterday announced he had signed up for the US$800,000 Venetian Macau Open at the Macau Golf & Country Club from October 17-20, saying he couldn't resist the dual temptation of being able to return to play in Asia and try his luck on one of the enclave's roulette tables.

The South African, winner of the US Open in 1994 and 1997 and The Open in 2002 and 2012, has been a regular visitor to these parts throughout his glittering career. It is a commitment acknowledged by the Asian Tour's recent decision to make him an honorary member and international ambassador.

And he took the opportunity yesterday to throw his support behind the Asian Tour in its tussle with the rival OneAsia organisation.

I think they could have handled it differently. But to do it in two major events and to two Asian players is too much of a coincidence

"It's unfortunate that it has come to this," Els said. "I have played Asian Tour events throughout my career so I am very much for the Asian Tour arm of golf. It's pretty much a player's tour - they have quite a say and it is growing.

"I am sure OneAsia is trying to do the same. But it's a bit of a gold rush going on with guys trying to get into the Asian market. But I feel the Asian Tour has been around a long time and that is the way to go. I feel they are working for the best interests of the sport in Asia."

Els has twice collected trophies from the Asian Tour - winning the 2005 BMW Asian Open in China and the 2005 Qatar Masters. He'll come to Macau for the first time with his game in fine nick. There was his dramatic come-from-behind victory last year at The Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes and a win at the BMW International Open in Munich in June, a victory that has helped Els sit in seventh place in the European Tour's "Race To Dubai".

"I'll be 44 in October - during the week of Macau," he said. "Time is moving on but I still love the game. I'm trying to keep myself in half decent shape. It's exciting times. I believe I can play past 50, competitively. I still very much enjoy trying to improve.

"I've never been to Macau but I know the tournament has been going for quite some time and it's a happening city. People like to go there for fun and hopefully I can find the right number on the roulette table."