Ernie Els won the US Open at Congressional Country Club in 1997 and this Thursday he shot a blast-from-the-past 66 at the Maryland layout to share third place after round one of the Quicken Loans National.
‘I felt comfortable with my swing this week,’ The Big Easy said. ‘Winning a major at a special place like Congressional, playing here again, you just keep thinking back on shots, almost every single hole there’s a moment back in 1997 where we can remember still.’
The 46-year-old started on the 10th, but showed his true prowess over the second half of his round. He exhibited fine iron play and put himself in strong birdie-making positions, which he capitalised upon at the third, fifth and sixth holes. He then played an approach to four feet at the ninth and sank the putt for birdie.
The four-time major champion fed off his good memories at Congressional and made just one bogey on Thursday, which came at the 17th. He pencilled in six birdies during the round before making the clubhouse on five-under-par, two shots behind leader Jon Rahm.
‘I want to really play some special golf this week at a special place, so I’ve got three good rounds coming up,’ said Els.
Tyrone van Aswegen was the next-best South African after he opened with a two-under-par 69 that was built on his finding 78% of the greens in regulation. Dawie van der Walt will be encouraged by his Thursday round of 70, while Rory Sabbatini faltered to a three-over-par 74.