Elkington Looks Ready for Greatness

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Florida -- The two best fields in golf anywhere in the world so far this year were in the Doral Open and The Players Championship. Steve Elkington won them both.

Does that mean Elkington might be poised to emerge as the best player in the world? Perhaps.

There are great players and there are hot players. Elkington has the skills and maturity to emerge as both.

As a ball striker, Elkington is as good as there is in golf. He drives the ball with better than average distance and much better than average accuracy.

His iron play is thoughtful, precise and innovative.

The swing has a sweet tempo and mesmerizing rhythm that holds up under pressure and repeats in the most difficult of circumstances.

And right now Elkington has the kind of putting touch -- the kind of "I can ram this 20-footer because I know I'll make the 4-footer coming back" attitude -- that makes great years happen. That's the way Nick Faldo played when he won five major championships from 1987 to 1992. That's the way Tom Watson played when he won 22 tournaments from 1978 to 1982.

And that's the way Jack Nicklaus played for nearly 25 years.

Elkington knows that being considered best in the world is the kind of achievement that occurs over years -- not in two tournaments.

"No, I don't think so," Elkington said when asked after he won the Players Championship by a record seven strokes Sunday if he now had his sights on being best in the world.

"When you think of Greg [Norman] and what he's done the last 10 years," he said, his voice trailing off. "There's a few guys that have popped up there and popped up to No. 1 and haven't been able to stay there."

He is a big tournament player.

His eight victories on the PGA Tour include the Tournament of Champions twice, the Players Championship twice and the PGA Championship.

Everything about Elkington's graceful game seems to work well under pressure. At 34, he seems to be reaching his physical and emotional peak.

"I want to say I'm so thrilled about blowing this field away," he said after destroying a group in The Players Championship that included for the first time ever in any tournament all of the 50 best players in the world.

"But I don't want to say it," he said. "I want to be humble about it."

But even if Elkington couldn't muster the words to express his domination in The Players Championship, he displayed the game that said it for him. With all four major championships still ahead, Elkington could put together a year that will leave everyone else speechless.