Awkward interview for Ernie
Miami - Ernie Els is one of those rare athletes who became a champion while somehow remaining a favourite of the people, a guy who never seems to draw criticism or disdain. You want Ernie to do well and when he doesn't, you ache for him.
Case in point: Sunday afternoon at the Transitions Championship when Els, who had held a share of the lead for much of the afternoon, went bogey-bogey to finish his round one stroke out of a playoff. His round ended in the cruelest possible fashion: a missed 4-foot putt that he simply pulled wide.
According to Yahoo! Sports website, Els consented to a post-round interview with NBC/Golf Channel's Steve Sands, and it was surely one of the most awkward and painful interviews in recent memory because of the look of utter shock on Els's face. Twenty minutes before - hell, two minutes before - he was preparing for a playoff and a possible win that would have punched his ticket to the Masters, and now ... nothing.
Here's the sum total of the interview:
Q. Very disappointed, Ernie Els; what happened after that drive on the 18th hole?
Els: What happened? Well, I pulled my second left and I chipped it up there. Didn't have a great lie on my third shot and I pulled my putt.
Q. Did you have the confidence to make that putt before there?
Els: Yeah, I guess so. I just pulled it a bit.
Sands pulled the plug on the interview right then, leaving Els utterly alone to face the camera's eye.
Reaction on Twitter was instantaneous and stridently anti-Sands, by about a 10/1 margin. Comments included "brutal, awkward, lame," "one of the worst interviews I've heard in a long time," "just raised the bar for stupid questions," and "more painful than my ruptured appendix during 5th grade winter break."
Even tour golfers piled on. Steve Elkington said that Steve Sands "goes Jim Gray" (a reference to Gray's infamous 1999 skewering of Pete Rose) and "time will tell if it's career ending."
"Not sure that was a great interview with Ernie Els after the round," Ian Poulter added. "That question was a bit short and stuck in like a dagger. Not cool."
Let's go a little easy on Sands, too. Sure, the first question was painfully obvious and the second question was a bit of a bailout, but interviewing the loser is among the worst jobs in sports media. Nobody wants to do it, but it's part of the essential narrative.
Some days, life isn't all green jackets and magnolias. We keep that in mind because it makes those moments of victory that much sweeter.