We’ve just arrived on the beautiful island of Mauritius for this week’s AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, after spending a wonderful few days in Australia.
It was my first trip to Royal Melbourne in a good number of years, and my first with the President’s Cup captain’s hat on. It was so nice to be back. I love this city and its people. Obviously some very fond memories there for me, winning the Presidents Cup in ’98, which feels like it was only yesterday, and winning three straight Heineken Classics in the early 2000s. They were some good times; the kids were still young and travelling with Liezl and me, I remember we stayed at The Crown, which was the best hotel we’d ever stayed in.
And, needless to say, Royal Melbourne remains one of my favourite golf courses in the world. Forever in my top-three, you might say! So that was the main purpose of this visit, to look at the golf course, speak to the greens staff, and also start the ball rolling on engaging with the Aussie crowd. Having them right behind us from the get-go will be a big factor as we try to win this Cup. Hopefully they can help pull us across the line and we feel like we’ll be winning this thing for them, too.
On a related note, it was nice to be able to announce having Geoff Ogilvy on board as one of the assistant captains. Geoff is a fantastic player, a matchplay champion twice, obviously US Open champion as well. He brings a lot to our team. We’ve always had a good relationship, he’s a natural fit for us. A local guy, he knows this golf course, he knows this area. It was an easy choice for me.
While in Melbourne we also took the opportunity to debut a new International Team logo. It’s a special group of guys from all over the world that make up our team. Being from across the globe, we don’t all play for the same flag; therefore, we kind of felt that this special group of people needed something to identify with. To lift the spirit of the team, we felt like we needed a logo for ourselves. To have this new logo to bond us together and still represent our countries and our flags, is something we can all be a part of and all get behind. Click here if you want to find out more about that.
So anyway, golf-wise it’s been a decent little stretch for me these past few weeks. I played the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico, followed by the RSM Classic at beautiful Sea Island in Georgia. I was 12-under par for the two tournaments; that makes me 26-under par aggregate for my four starts on the 2018/19 PGA TOUR season. I’ve been working with a new guy in Miami since the summer and it feels like the hard work is starting to pay off. The swing feels good, the putter is working nicely. It makes me excited for the weeks and months ahead.
And as I said, this week we’re teeing it up in the AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, tri-sanctioned between the European Tour, Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour. It was a privilege to design the course at Anahita (pictured above) and we’re thrilled with how it has matured in the past 10 years. One of its strengths is that we were able to maximise the visual impact of the surrounding scenery, but at the same time preserve the coastline’s natural beauty. The hole routings move in and out of the trees, along the water, and back, giving players great variety and magnificent views of the ocean. It’s going to be a lot of fun playing it in tournament conditions. Hopefully a little ‘insider’ knowledge will work in my favour!
It’s also exciting to report that another of the courses in the Ernie Els Design portfolio, Albany in the Bahamas (pictured below), this week hosts the PGA TOUR’s Hero World Challenge for a fourth straight year. I send my best wishes to Tiger, the tournament’s host, and everyone on the team at Albany. It was fun for me to be there a few years ago and see the guys playing in tournament conditions, seeing how they handled this layout that we’re all so proud of. I’m sure everyone involved, not least the players, is in for another wonderful week.
From Mauritius, we’ll then fly straight to South Africa where the City of Johannesburg is the proud new host of our historic national open. The venue is Randpark’s two fine championship golf courses, Firethorn and Bushwillow. We’ll have a great field and, for the first time ever, this tournament is also tri-sanctioned between the European Tour, Sunshine Tour and Asian Tour. As official player-host, and a proud South African, it’s exciting to see the tournament continue to go from strength to strength. This feels like a great slot on the schedule and to have a major internationally-recognised city such as Johannesburg aligning itself so strongly with our national Open is obviously wonderful news. I’ll write again after we’re done there.
In the meantime, we’ll just catch you up on the news from the Els for Autism Drive to Sun City series, which came to a successful conclusion with our Grand Finale at the spectacular Lost City Golf Course earlier this month. It was our first time there and, despite a little rough weather here and there, I hear everyone had an amazing time. The golf competition and the charity auction went well. Big thanks to Jakkie Louw, who did a wonderful job entertaining our finalists, and to our master of ceremonies Dan Nichol. Congrats to event winners Gerhard Kunn and Marius De Bruin who won a spot in The Nedbank Challenge pro-am.
On behalf of myself, event organiser Nico Van Rensburg and the rest of the Els for Autism team, I send my personal thanks to everyone who took part in this year’s series. Rest assured we’ll do it all again in 2019 and we look forward to your generous support.
That’s it for now. Follow me on Twitter @TheBig_Easy.