Ernie Els returns to Congressional Country Club, the sight of his 1997 US Open triumph, for this week’s Quicken Loans National. ‘The Big Easy’ missed the cut last week at Oakmont Country Club, but still has a positive outlook to his game.
‘Overall, I thought I played some really good golf in those first two rounds, hitting a lot of quality shots and giving myself a bunch of opportunities. Apart from a few mistakes I felt like my game was right where it needed to be and I like what I’m working on with David Leadbetter right now. The swing feels really comfortable, even if it’s not showing-up in my results in recent weeks. That will come,’ he said in his weekly diary.
The former world number one is eager to test himself on the Devereux Emmet-designed layout, a course he is extremely fond of.
‘I’ll certainly be going into this week’s Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club with a positive mindset. It is another Major Championship course and I’m relishing the opportunity to come back and compete at this historic club. I love these traditional old courses up in the North East and I’ve been blessed to win quite a few times in this part of the US. Whenever I compile a list of my favourite courses, Congressional is always right up there.’
The 46-year-old has primarily played on the European Tour’s BMW International Open, which he won in 2013, on this week of the tour, but decided to play State-side this year.
‘Casting my mind back to a top-10 finish here in the 2005 Booz Allen Classic (defunct PGA Tour event that was hosted at Congressional Country Club), the course was much the same as it had been in 1997 when I won my second US Open. However, by the time we returned for the 2011 US Open – and again at the 2014 Quicken Loans National – it was a very different course’ he said.
‘While it’s natural that I’d have some fondness for the old layout, I must say I like what they’ve done here. As many of you will know, the key change is the old par-three 18th hole is now the 10th and it’s longer than before. That means the old 17th hole, where I hit one of the best shots of my career in the final round in 1997, is now the new 18th, only again it’s significantly longer. It’s a strong finishing hole. I’m looking forward to the whole experience of being back at Congressional,’ he added.
Els is clearly in familiar surroundings which should help as he looks to snap a run of four missed cuts in his last four starts. His strength lies in his putting as he ranks in the top-50 on tour for strokes gained: putting, but he needs to improve his driving and iron play if he wants a repeat of his 2005 performance at the same venue.
Other South Africans in the field this week include Dawie van der Walt, Tyrone van Aswegen and Rory Sabbatini.