Els talking up his Open chances
Ernie Els is confident of winning a second Open – despite the way he self-destructed at Pebble Beach at the US Open.
A month after he self destructed in the US Open at Pebble Beach, Ernie Els is determined not to be the man who throws away the Open Championship at St Andrews.
Els looked to be on course to a third US Open title at Pebble Beach, when, with three birdies in his first six holes, he reeled in and joining eventual winner Graeme McDowell in the lead in the final round, but then, inexplicably he dropped four shots in three holes around the turn and dropped out of the picture.
The big South African finished two strokes behind McDowell after playing the last 10 holes in five over par, and was so annoyed that he uncharacteristically left the course without speaking to waiting reporters.
Els, who has subsequently apologised for doing so, missed the cut in last week’s Scottish Open at Loch Lomond, but still believes he is in the sort of form to challenge for a second Open title, even if the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson also rediscover their form.
“I feel like I’ve got a good chance this week,” said the 40-year-old, winner at Muirfield in 2002. “I’ve got a lot of experience and I think it’ll help me.
“I guess I’ve just been looking forward to this week since the US Open and now that I’m here, I’m preparing well. Physically I feel really good, I’m hitting my driver good, so I feel my game is really there.
“It’s just for me to really concentrate and be 100% focused on what I’m going to do this week. I feel I can do that.
“Even with Tiger playing well and Phil playing well, I think I still have a decent chance of playing well here this week and maybe having a chance. If I can get into position like I was at the US Open, I’d like to finish it off for a change.”
Speaking about his final round at Pebble Beach, Els added: “I felt so good that last day. I played such controlled golf.
“You never want to make silly mistakes. I have so much experience that I know what not to do, and to hit that shot I did on 10 near the ocean there and making double there, I just couldn’t forgive myself for that one.
“I just felt very disappointed because I had the perfect start and I just had to keep alive and I probably would have been at worst in a play-off. But I just self-destructed a little bit, and I was a little hot under the collar.”
Asked if he would have to control his emotions better if in contention to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday, Els admitted: “I think you’re right, you’re going to have to be in control of your emotions and hit the right shots at the right time.
“I think somebody will win it, but I think somebody might lose it, also.”
Whether Tiger Woods can win the Open over the Old Course for the third time in succession is very much in doubt given the world number one’s recent form, although Els is not about to count Woods out.
But the world number six also believes European Tour players will be major contenders on Sunday thanks to their experience of playing the course in the Dunhill Links Championship every year.
“I think Tiger’s going to have a very good week, he’ll be a factor,” Els added. “But I think because of the European Tour playing here every year, you’re going to have a huge European presence here this week.
“The guys know the course like the back of their hands now. This place used to be a special place to come to every couple of years for the Open. We play a tournament here every year now, so the guys know the course well, so you’re going to have a big group of guys on Sunday with a chance to win, I think.”
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