Ernie, Phil have warm words for Woods
CHARLOTTE — Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson will each make his 100th major start on Thursday at the PGA Championship, and both credit Tiger Woods with helping them boost their fitness and longevity.
US left-hander Mickelson, a five-time major winner, and Els, a four-time major champion from South Africa, paid tribute to the injured 14-time major champion on Tuesday at Quail Hollow.
“Had Tiger not come around, I don’t feel I would have pushed myself to achieve what I ended up achieving, because he forced everybody to get the best out of themselves,” Mickelson said.
“He forced everybody to work a little bit harder. He forced everybody to look at fitness as a big part of the game of golf, and I think that has actually helped me with longevity.
“He was a big influence on that, so I don’t think I would have had the same level of success had he not come around.”
Els, runner-up to Woods at the US and British Opens in 2000, agreed, saying Woods’ 1997 Masters victory was so impressive it derailed his own major chances for a time.
“I was ready to win quite a few, if you know what I mean, and then when Tiger came in ’97 and won the Masters in the way he did, that threw me off a little bit,” Els said.