SAN DIEGO: Forget Phil Mickelson. Tiger Woods has bigger mountain to climb - South Africa's Ernie Els.
After Woods dispatched of Mickelson easily here on Sunday, people are now talking that his next big challenge will be Els, the leading money winner this year after seven weeks of the season.
Woods didn't miss a beat in winning the US$4.5 million Buick Invitational by four strokes despite coming off the longest layoff of his professional career following left knee surgery.
While the 27-year-old American was dominating here, Els won his sixth title in his past eight starts on Sunday in Perth, Australia. Els is the hottest golfer on tour right now, with US$2.6 million so far this year.
Woods said that in between his rounds, he turned on the television to watched Els.
“Ernie is winning again. That is pretty impressive,” Woods said. “He's putting up some great scores and great numbers.
“Everybody makes a big deal of how far he is hitting and you can hit it 400 yards but you still got to make the putts. He is making every single putt inside 12 feet and that is what you have to do in order to win tournaments.”
Woods and Els are expected to meet next at the World Golf Championships Match Play event later this month in Carlsbad, California.
“Anything can happen in match play,” said Woods. “In the final rounds anything can happen. It is very unpredictable.”
The usually serious Woods was in a jovial mood after his victory joking with reporters. He even grabbed a microphone and pretended to interview himself while waiting for the moderator to arrive.
“What did you think of your performance?” Woods asked himself, imitating the journalists. “I hit a big putt there at five. Yeah I'm pretty excited to be back.”
Ecstatic might be a better word. It was the third time in his career that he has won his first event of a season. The other two came at the Tournament of Champions in 1997 and 2000. - AFP