Ernie Els started his ambitious quest to chase down world number one Tiger Woods in style by winning the SAA Open in his home country.
World number eight Ernie Els started his ambitious quest to chase down world number one Tiger Woods in style by winning the SAA Open in his home country.
Els’ victory, coming from three behind fellow South African Trevor Immelman to finish three shots clear by the end of the day, was winning his first tournament of 2006 ensured he had won at least one a year since 1991.
But now he has greater plans, and it is to put his new-found goal to snatch the world number one spot into action.
“I know that some people may find it laughable, especially with the lead that Tiger has built up and how well he is playing at the moment,” Els said.
“But I need something to keep me motivated and I have a number of goals I still want to achieve in the next few years and that is one of them. I feel I have a lot of good golf left in me and want to play that in the next three years. I know it will take a lot of good golf to do it though.”
While his mediocre year had a lot to do with it, Els rates his home Open as his “fifth major” and was so overjoyed that he sprayed a bottle of champagne out on the media at his post-victory press conference.
“This win was extremely important to me,” Els said.
“I wanted to win at Sun City a few weeks back but I got in my own way there. Somehow though this week I was spiritually a lot more at ease and this tournament is important to me.
“I have won a few times and I have been close a few times. I remember last year losing it to Retief (Goosen) and so this win is wonderful. Being the SAA Open, it is like a major to me.”
Els has struggled for form this season, and his last title before this came in the Dunhill Championship just over a year ago following his return to action after knee surgery.
“I’m healthy now, that is the main difference,” he said.
“Since July I have played some good golf and have improved. I feel that I am improving and I’m not patching around to fix my swing and confidence. I may have had two, three, four rounds here and there which have not helped me but for the most part I have been very happy.”
Els paid tribute to his wife Liesl, who he says has bore the brunt of his mediocre form over the past year.
“I think my wife needs a medal,” he joked.
“I’ve been a bit like a bull with a sore head for the last year, especially when I felt it went backwards. Its been a tough year for me and this is a great win.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet but I played with a lot of confidence this week and I believe this confidence will give me the lift I need to do better in the majors. Hopefully this is the step up that I needed.”
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