July10 - Ernie


Ernie Els was only a witness to “one of the best shots I’ve ever seen in my life”… but it enabled him to live the dream as it helped him secure a second win in a competition he regards as golf’s “Olympic Occasion.”
The 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup will be played at Mission Hills Golf Club, in China from November  22-25, but it was in 2001 in Japan where Els watched partner Retief Goosen strike his regal blow on the way to South Africa claiming this prestigious title.
Goosen had already fired a fabulous five iron second shot from 210 yards out at the 18th to eight feet to set up an eagle putt that Els calmly holed so that South Africa joined Denmark, New Zealand and the United States in a four nation play-off at The Taiheiyo Club in Gotemba.
Els recalled: “We went back to the 18th and I put us straight in trouble by driving into a fairway bunker. Retief had 240 yards to go but he hit the most magnificent shot out of the bunker with a two iron to the heart of the green. It was one of the best shots I’ve ever seen in my live – absolutely phenomenal. New Zealand and the Americans went out there and we beat the Danes at the second extra hole.
“That was my second World Cup win because I had teamed up with Wayne Westner in 1996. That is my favourite win because it came at Erinvale Golf Club in the Western Cape in South Africa. I guess we had a slight advantage with more than 30,000 cheering us on in the last round!
“It was a huge day for both of us. How many times does a man get to play for his country? We don’t get to play in the Olympics or events like those so the World Cup is our kind of Olympic Occasion. On top of that winning in your home country as Wayne and I did in 1996 was very special.
“The World Cup is different because you are playing a team event that is unlike other team events such as The Ryder Cup – for a start The Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup have12 players on each team.
“In The World Cup there are only two of you out there playing for your country and the format is different. It’s a fun event, too, because you play fourball and foursomes which is great. I always find foursomes quite demanding especially on the Sunday when everything is on the line. It’s tough, but I love it. And The World Cup is special because it brings so many countries together.”
South Africa, winners also in 1974 and 2003, will be bidding for a fifth win when in 2007 a total of 28 two-man teams, each one of a different nationality, compete in the Omega Mission Hills World Cup on the Olazábal Course at Mission Hills. This 7,400 yard lay-out was designed by double Masters Tournament champion José Maria Olazábal of Spain. The tournament is a 72-hole stroke play team event. The first and third days are fourball (best ball) play and the second and final days are foursomes play.
The defending champions will be Germany who claimed their second World Cup crown in Barbados in December, 2006, when Bernhard Langer and Marcel Siem defeated Scotland’s Colin Montgomerie and Marc Warren in a play-off.
For the 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup the leading 18 available players, each native-born citizens of different countries, from the Official World Golf Ranking on Monday September 3 will qualify. These 18 players will select a player of their choosing from the same country provided each player is ranked in the top 100 of the Official World Golf Ranking on September 3. Ten countries from the World Qualifying Competitions to be held between September 27-30 will complete the field of 28 nations competing for the first prize of US$1,650,000 from a total prize fund of US$5,000,000.
The 2007 Omega Mission Hills World Cup will launch a new and exciting era in the history of the event first played in 1953 as the Canada Cup. The event is set to continue through 2018, and most probably beyond, at Mission Hills following the signing of an agreement which brought the prestige watch manufacturer Omega together with the Club which introduced the game of golf to China by first hosting the World Cup in 1995.
John Jay Hopkins, the noted Canadian industrialist, brought to reality a dream that golf could promote goodwill between nationals with the inaugural World Cup played in Montreal in 1953 then called the Canada Cup and re-titled The World Cup in 1967.
The International Federation of PGA Tours will, as custodians, oversee the 53rd edition of the event as it unfolds less than one year before the staging in Beijing of the Olympic Games at which Omega has a unique role as Official Timekeeper.