The Big Easy did it again.
Already off to an incredible start to the season, Ernie Els made it three wins in four events in 2003 by winning the Heineken Classic in Melbourne, Australia on Sunday.
With the victory, Els moves to the top of the European Order of Merit, and now leads both the PGA Tour and European money lists. No one has ever won both titles in the same year, although Tiger Woods would have done it twice if he was a member of the European Tour.
Els was again dominant off the tee, averaging almost 320 yards, but also showed us something we haven't seen so far this year: His ability to come from behind. After finishing the second round 10 strokes off the lead, the Big Easy fired a 66-65 on the weekend to successfully defend his Heineken title by a stroke over Nick Faldo -- who was looking for his first win since 1997 -- and Peter Lonard. He made six bogeys and a double in his first two rounds, but had just two bogeys in his final 36 holes.
The amount of extra money Tim Herron would have earned if he somehow could have turned his quadruple-bogey 8 into a double-bogey 6 on the 16th hole Sunday.
Golfers around the world will breathe a little easier as Els is taking next week off to spend time with his family and play in a charity tournament in Bali. After that, it's back to work at the Johnnie Walker Classic before returning to the States for the Match Play in March.
More tidbits and analysis from the weekend in golf:
1. The twentysomething Tiger Woods protégés might be the future of golf, but it was refreshing to see some of the older guard duke it out in the final group of the Bob Hope on Sunday.
Forty-nine-year-old Jay Haas, who earned his first PGA Tour victory before Woods was 2 years old, battled back and forth for most of the final round with Tim Herron, a rotund fellow who looks like he belongs in the PBA rather than on the PGA Tour.
Haas, just 10 months from being eligible for the Champions Tour, was bidding to become the fifth-oldest player ever to win a PGA Tour event, while Herron -- nicknamed Lumpy -- was looking for his first victory in almost four years.
Both made critical errors in judgment in the final three holes to gift-wrap the tournament for Mike Weir, who strung together three birdies in his final three holes to lock up the victory.
2. After 20 rounds of virtually ideal scoring conditions to begin the 2003 PGA Tour season, Mother Nature finally showed her ugly side Sunday.
Wind gusts of up to 30 miles per hour kicked up dust in the desert and turned PGA West from a lamb into a lion for the final round of the Bob Hope. For the first time all week, club selection was a tough decision and players weren't firing at pins but rather the center of the green.
For many players, this was their first opportunity to test new equipment in poor conditions, and it showed. A look at some facts and figures from the first four rounds (before) as compared to Sunday's finale (after):
Before: The scoring average at PGA West was below 69 for the first four rounds. After: It was around 73 on Sunday.
Before: On Thursday at PGA West, Jay Haas became the oldest player ever to shoot a 61 in a PGA Tour event. After: On Sunday at that same course, Haas was eight strokes worse at 69, and that included an eagle on the sixth.
Before: Only three golfers (out of 126) finished the first four rounds above par. After: Forty-three of the remaining 72 players were above par Sunday.
Before: Ten players had their best-ever 72 holes in relation to par this week. After: Only four players were better than 3-under in the final round.
3. It looks like Jack is back.
After playing in just two official events last year due to back pain, Jack Nicklaus made some noise in the first Champions Tour event of 2003, finishing tied for 11th at the MasterCard in Hawaii.
Nicklaus' weekend included an opening 4-under 68 and a closing round of 6-under 66, his best round since the 1996 Tradition. He looked happier with his game in Hawaii than he has in a while. More importantly, the back pain that sidelined him last year seems to have subsided, which is great news for golf fans and the struggling Champions Tour.
4. David Duval's first tournament of 2003 could have been a beauty were it not for one terrible round. After opening the Bob Hope with a first-round 65, he shot a second-round 6-over 78 that included three bogeys and a dreaded two doubles.
He bounced back with a 68 Friday and a 67 Saturday that left him at 10-under, but missed Saturday's cut by three strokes. Still, it's a decent start to 2003 for Duval, who is coming off the worst season of his career.
If you turn that 78 into an even-par 72, he makes the cut with room to spare and has a chance to make a run Sunday at PGA West, the site of his record-tying 59 in 1999.
5. Herron deserved better than a snowman.
For 87 holes, Lumpy showed us that you don't have to have a personal trainer or lift weights to win on the PGA Tour. But on the 88th hole he lost it.
Tied for the lead with Haas after making an eagle on the par-5 14th, Herron hit his tee shot into a bunker on the 364-yard, par-4 16th. Needing to hit a wedge out of the sand and over a water hazard to reach the green, Herron's shot flew the green and landed high on a rocky hill, about 20 yards over the putting surface.
After finding his ball among the boulders and taking a drop for his third stroke, Herron found himself literally between a rock and a hard place. He misjudged the lie and sailed his fourth shot over the green and into the same water hazard that likely weighed heavily on his mind on his second shot out of the bunker. Herron took another drop, chipped on to the green and two-putted for a disastrous quadruple-bogey 8 (the dreaded snowman) that dropped him out of contention.
Visibly upset with himself, Herron -- who began the day with a four-shot lead -- went on to make another eagle on the 18th hole to finish in a tie for third with Chris DiMarco four strokes worse than Weir. How many times do you see a guy make two eagles in nine holes and finish those same nine holes at 1-over?
What it means for ...
Davis Love III: Had a good start to his 2003 season, finishing tied for 12th at the Bob Hope on Sunday. Love's week in the desert included 28 birdies and two eagles. Two straight bogeys to end his final round prevented a top-10 finish.
Chris DiMarco: Earned his second third-place finish in three weeks, but a double-bogey 7 on the 14th hole at a wind-swept PGA West took him out of contention.
Charles Howell III: The course set up perfectly for Howell, but he ended up missing the cut after rounds of 71-71-70-71. What was the problem? His putting was off all week, he averaged more than 30 putts per round.
Pat Perez: Had himself a great week, firing one of three 61s shot in the first four days. He finished tied for sixth after missing the cut in Phoenix. Next up for Perez is a return trip to Pebble Beach, where last year he lost a big third-round lead -- not to mention his temper -- and ended up finishing second.
Phil Mickelson: Lefty jumped from a tie for 33rd to a tie for sixth with a final-round 67 -- tied for the best score of the day at windy PGA West. That's two straight weeks he's made a big leap in the final round. If only he could put it together earlier.
Coming up next ...
PGA Tour: Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
The pros will play with amateurs again this week along the Pacific at Pebble Beach, which will provide the toughest test of this young season. The wind players faced Sunday at the Bob Hope is only a preview of what they may be subjected to at Pebble. Matt Gogel -- T37 at the Hope -- will be back to defend his title.
Also scheduled to compete at Pebble is Casey Martin. His final-round meltdown at Q-school cost him his full-time PGA Tour card.
Champions Tour: Royal Caribbean Classic
John Jacobs won the rain-shortened event last year in Key Biscayne. The tournament was cut to 36 holes after heavy rain canceled play Friday.
European Tour: ANZ Championship
The ANZ Championship at New South Wales GC near Sydney, Australia is the European Tour's only event using the modified Stableford scoring system. Similar to the PGA Tour's International, it awards five points for an eagle, two for a birdie, none for par, minus-one for bogey and minus-three for a double bogey or worse.
David Lefort is ESPN.com's golf editor, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.