It’s been a whirlwind kind of year, but a bit of welcome time off here at the house in South Africa has brought with it the opportunity for some quiet moments of reflection. Summing up, this season has had a little bit of everything – a mixed bag, as they say.
Of course, the beginning of December was a tough and emotional time for our nation as we started to come to terms with the passing of Nelson Mandela. We received that very sad news during the Nedbank Golf Challenge and it’s fair to say many of us played with a heavy heart that weekend, especially as in my case it also coincided with the passing of my dear friend and former coach Jos Vanstiphout. Both men changed my life, obviously in very different ways, and my tribute to each of them is still available to read on this website.
Golf-wise, things were right on track at the start of the year and my game was in great shape around the time of the US Open at Merion – actually had a sniff at winning that one, then went straight to Munich the following week and won the BMW International Open (pictured above). That was the high point. From the Open Championship through to the PGA Championship and the FedEx Cup, my game just didn’t catch fire. It wasn’t a million miles off, but not quite sharp enough to get consistently in the mix. Frustrating is probably the word.
So anyway, my tournament count in 2013 was 33 (4 majors, 4 WGC events, 24 other tour events on the PGA, European and Asian Tours, and a Presidents Cup). That’s a lot of golf, more than I’d normally play, but as Open champion you have a responsibility to play around the world and represent the game of golf. And it really was a lot of fun, especially the first six months of 2013 with that wonderful Claret Jug beside me.
Since returning in the beginning of November from a three-week stretch of tournaments and golf course design visits in Asia, we’ve played just one tournament – the Nedbank Golf Challenge – which means just recently the main focus for me has been fitness and overall physical conditioning, basically re-charging the batteries and getting my body strong again so we can make a fast start in the New Year.
Schedule-wise in 2014, we’re looking at a few options. As always, we start with the four majors and a couple of other key events on my favourites’ list, and then we work everything else around that. I can tell you my first tournament of the year will be the Volvo Golf Champions at Durban Country Club, a particular favourite of mine. We’ll release more details on the rest of my schedule early in the New Year.
There’s a fair chance it will involve a little less golf than in 2013. Family life is obviously important to me and you don’t want to miss out on your kids’ best years before they grow up and leave home. A lot of players of my generation are in this situation now – guys like Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker spring to mind – and for all of us it gets tougher and tougher being away from home. The younger guys don’t have these issues, but things change. They’ll understand one day!
Although I may play a slightly different schedule in 2014, one thing that remains the same is my commitment to trying to win another major, maybe two. I’m 44 years of age now and with the modern-day equipment being as good as it is, I feel like I can really stay with the longer hitters. We just need to sharpen up a few things here and there, get the right venue and get the right mojo. Then I think we can pull something off again. It’s not going to be easy, but I believe there are some decent opportunities for me in the next few years.
Away from the golf course, one of the highlights of 2013 was the third Els for Autism Golf Challenge and its spectacular Grand Finale in Las Vegas in October. We launched this series in 2011 and already it has raised $6.5 million thanks to over 5,000 rounds of golf and more than 15,000 donors pledging funds. The Vegas weekend is a celebration where we get to say thanks to all of our supporters, sponsors and participants.
Thanks to them and the hard work of a dedicated team of people at the Els for Autism Foundation, headed by my wife Liezl, we’re all set for a very exciting 2014. We’ll break ground on site for the Center of Excellence, which although based in Florida will have a global reach helping individuals and families touched by autism. That means so much to all of us.
And that seems like the right kind of note to end on. Thanks so much for all your support this year. Enjoy your festive season, wherever you are in the world, and here’s hoping that 2014 brings good health and happiness. None of us can ask for more than that.