Ernie Els: 'Maybe I was selfish to criticise timing of Tiger Woods'

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The Independent Online

No player has been more critical of Tiger Woods during his return to golf than Ernie Els, who said that Woods was being "selfish" by making his first public comments on the Friday of the Match Play Championship.

But Els says he's weary of taking questions about Woods. "It's very difficult to talk about Tiger, as I know him as a golfer and a pretty good friend," he said. "It's basically affected a lot of lives on tour, because of the constant questioning that we have to answer about a fellow player's private life."

Els has not been critical of the sex scandal that got Woods into the mess, only how he has taken attention away from golf with the timing of his announcements and interviews. And while he stood by his comment from the Match Play, he added a twist.

"We had to play a tournament and I was maybe selfish from my point of view that all I wanted to do was play a golf tournament instead of talking about his personal life," Els said. "That's basically what I meant by that. I felt that Monday [after the event] would have been great. Friday wasn't great for us.

"So maybe I was selfish. Call me selfish," he said. "That's maybe where I'm coming from. And now, again, questions keep coming. We cannot give you insight because we don't know. I'd love everybody to stop asking questions about Tiger and his personal life. That's his life. Go ask him."

That will be possible on the Monday of Masters week after it was announced yesterday that that is when Woods will hold his first news conference at Augusta. Woods will face the media on Monday 5 April of tournament week, a departure from his usual Tuesday news conference, before the start of the year's first major.

Colin Montgomerie has not finished in the top 10 since being named Ryder Cup captain, and in his only three starts this year, he tied for 60th in Abu Dhabi and missed the cut in his other two. He is playing in the Arnold Palmer Invitational which started last night on an exemption. Montgomerie, who is No 287 in the world, flew to Houston to work with his college coach, Paul Marchand. His focus is on the Ryder Cup, but he still wants to win to set an example. "I have a goal that I would love to win before the Ryder Cup starts," Montgomerie said. "I'd like to stand in front of my team at the opening ceremony as a tournament winner myself this year. That's a goal, and I'm working toward that."

* Paul Lawrie had a share of the lead with Dane Soren Kjeldsen at the Andalucia Open overnight after shooting a five-under 65.