Wine, win suits Els just fine

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:41 AM ET

At the very least, when the International team, which will include Canada's Mike Weir, gather next month for the Presidents Cup at the Harding Park Golf Club in San Francisco, a very good time will be had by all.

"We'll have a major piss-up," Ernie Els, the South African golf legend, joked during a visit yesterday to the Magna Golf Club. "If everybody brings their wine, we could be there for a while."

The fact is, many of the players on this year's International team, including Weir, Els, Retief Goosen, another South African, and captain Greg Norman, own and operate wineries.

But Els, who put on a clinic at the Aurora course yesterday, along with PGA standout J.J. Henry, in support of the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, stressed that it's crucial for the International team this year to challenge the American team, after failing to win the Presidents Cup since 1998. Interest in the tournament, which does not rival the Ryder Cup, a tournament which matches the U.S. against Europe, increases if the International team is competitive.

"Every year we look pretty strong on paper. But we need to get together and play as a team," Els said. " We've only done it twice where we really played well."

Norman has yet to announce the final roster for the Presidents Cup, but it's a slam dunk that Els will be front and centre at the tournament, considering his stellar play internationally over the years (a winner of three Majors) and the fact that he is playing much better recently. Els, who turns 40 on Oct.17, finished second to Heath Slocum at the Barclays last weekend. The rangy South African is slowly rounding into form since tearing up his knee in a water sports accident four years ago.

"My swing's a little different, my move through the ball's different than it was before the knee injury. But I'm not in pain," he said. "You have to adapt to it. It's like if you're a quarterback or a guy playing hockey. You recover, but you're never quite the same. You put a knife in your body, how can you be the same?"

Els expressed his enthusiasm to the news that golf and rugby -- two sports close to his heart -- have been recommended by the IOC board to be included into the 2016 Olympics.

"Rugby, the real game, that would be something," he said. "And golf coming in is fantastic. They need a clean sport like golf. It's a worldwide sport and has a huge audience. It's good for the Olympics and it's great for our game because it's going to be watched by everybody who has a television set."

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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