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Ernie Vs. Tiger Tale of the tape as the game's top heavyweights prepare to get it on

March 03, 2003
March 03, 2003

Table of Contents
March 3, 2003

Ernie Vs. Tiger Tale of the tape as the game's top heavyweights prepare to get it on

Apologies to the Nissan Open and Mike Weir. We tried, we really
tried, but despite the glorious weather, the classic venue and
the diabolical course setup, we couldn't overcome the feeling
that last week's Tour stop was simply an undercard bout. What
we've been waiting for is the Match Made in Heaven: Tiger Woods,
the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, versus Ernie
Els, the No. 1--ranked contender and hottest player on the
planet.

This is an article from the March 3, 2003 issue

Granted, arriving at such a battle of the titans is a longshot at
this week's Accenture World Match Play Championship in Carlsbad,
Calif., where Woods and Els will be playing in the same
tournament for the first time this year. But imagine what a Super
Sunday it will be if they can work their way through their
respective sides of the bracket--they'll have to win five matches
each--to meet in the 36-hole final at La Costa Resort & Spa.

The Match Play should be renamed Upsets 'R' Us. In case you've
forgotten, finals have included Jeff Maggert versus Andrew Magee,
Steve Stricker versus Pierre Fulke, and Kevin Sutherland versus
Scott McCarron. Miami versus Ohio State the Match Play ain't. And
remember, in last year's first round, Woods failed to get past
Peter O'Malley.

Just as Muhammad Ali needed Joe Frazier, Woods needs someone like
Els. The Big Easy has won four of his five starts this season (he
was second in the tournament he didn't win), and he has gone low.
Els's score of 31 under par at January's Mercedes Championships
is a PGA Tour record, and his 29 under at the recent Johnnie
Walker Classic, in Australia, counts as the record on the
European, Asian and Australasian tours. As his 10-shot win at the
Johnnie Walker attests, Els hasn't simply beaten other players,
he has destroyed them.

Woods came out smoking in 2003, KO'ing wannabe rival Phil
Mickelson on Mickelson's home turf at the Buick Invitational.
Although Woods tied for fifth at the Nissan--an event that is
becoming to him what the U.S. Open was to Sam Snead--nobody
bounces back, or responds to a challenge, better.

Is a Match Made in Heaven on the horizon? We think it could
happen this week, and here's our tale of the tape.
--Gary Van Sickle

COLOR PHOTO: ROSS KINNAIRD/GETTY IMAGES (ELS) ONE-TWO PUNCH Els (opposite) and Woods could meet in this week's Match Play final.COLOR PHOTO: JOHN MCCOY/LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS/AP (WOODS) [See caption above]COLOR PHOTO: JACQUELINE DUVOISINCOLOR PHOTO: CORBISCOLOR PHOTO: TONY TRIOLOCOLOR PHOTO: MATTHEW HARRISCOLOR PHOTO: CORBISCOLOR PHOTO: LENNOX MCLENDON/APCOLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONOCOLOR PHOTO: MIKE NELSON/AFPCOLOR PHOTO: JOHN MCDONOUGHCOLOR PHOTO: PETER READ MILLER

ELS EDGE

FIRST TOUR WIN 1994 U.S. Open [EDGE]

TOUR VICTORIES 12

INTERNATIONAL VICTORIES 31 [EDGE]

MAJORS 3

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT IN MAJOR Blew three-shot lead
at 1995 PGA

RECORD FEAT Set alltime scoring
mark on four tours
this year

OVERLOOKED ACCOMPLISHMENT Won South Africa tour's [EDGE]
Open, PGA and Masters
in 1992

CAREER GOAL Win career Grand Slam

HOME COURSE Wentworth [EDGE]

TAX HAVEN Bahamas [EDGE]

OFF-COURSE WEAKNESS Beer [EDGE]

GOLFING HERO Gary Player

GUARDIAN ANGEL Trey Holland [EDGE]

FASHION STATEMENT Black pants

INJURIES Blew out back lifting
stranger's luggage

SHOULDER TO CRY ON Jos Vanstiphout [EDGE]

CURSES In Afrikaans [EDGE]

WEBSITE ernieels.com [EDGE]
(he blogs weekly)

FAVORITE FOOD Steak

SIGNATURE MOVE Sheepish grin

SECOND FIDDLE Retief Goosen, next-best
player from South Africa

SWING COACH David Leadbetter [EDGE]

ON THE OTHER "I didn't miss him." [EDGE]

DUBIOUS ACHIEVEMENT Second in three straight
majors in 2000

MISSING TITLE Masters, PGA

WOODS EDGE

FIRST TOUR WIN 1996 Las Vegas
Invitational

TOUR VICTORIES 35 [EDGE]

INTERNATIONAL VICTORIES 7

MAJORS 8 [EDGE]

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT IN MAJOR Shot 81 at 2002 British [EDGE]
Open to end Grand Slam
bid

RECORD FEAT Holds alltime scoring [EDGE]
mark at all four majors

OVERLOOKED ACCOMPLISHMENT Won three straight U.S.
Juniors

CAREER GOAL Win at least 19 majors [EDGE]

HOME COURSE Isleworth

TAX HAVEN Florida

OFF-COURSE WEAKNESS Las Vegas

GOLFING HERO Jack Nicklaus [EDGE]

GUARDIAN ANGEL Phoenix Open fans

FASHION STATEMENT Collarless shirt [EDGE]

INJURIES Two surgeries on left knee [EDGE]

SHOULDER TO CRY ON Mark O'Meara

CURSES At photographers

WEBSITE tigerwoods.com
(he reveals schedule--a
week at a time)

FAVORITE FOOD Phil Mickelson [EDGE]

SIGNATURE MOVE Fist pump [EDGE]

SECOND FIDDLE Ernie Els, runner-up [EDGE]
to Tiger six times

SWING COACH Butch Harmon

ON THE OTHER "He's making every putt
he looks at."

DUBIOUS ACHIEVEMENT Took back $5 tip from [EDGE]
Vegas waitress

MISSING TITLE Nissan Open [EDGE]