Ernie Els returns to a course where he suffered disappointment 12 years ago. A runner-up finish by the then world number two was a bitter pill to swallow, especially coming against the unheard of American, Todd Hamilton.
Four rounds under 70 for the ‘Big Easy’ was only good enough to get him into a playoff alongside Hamilton. In the traditional four-hole showdown, a costly bogey on the third extra hole by Els saw him lose a chance to claim the Claret Jug for a second time in three years.
At a tournament that the former world number one enjoys so much, he did eventually claim a second Claret Jug in 2012 and comes into this week on the back of a strong showing in the Quicken Loans National across the pond. Three solid rounds saw the 46-year-old in the final pairing on Sunday, but a tilt at the title never came.
His strength remains his putting where he ranks high up on the PGA Tour. This will be crucial when tackling the links layout of Royal Troon, as it is a common site for golfers to be putting from extreme distances away from the hole. The weather conditions in Ayrshire are not predicted to be great and with his experience, Els could be considered a contender if he keeps it on the fairway off the tee.
The four-time major winner is part of a nine-strong field of South Africans at The Open this week and alongside the likes of Branden Grace, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen stands the best chance of being the Champion Golfer of the Year.