WE LOOK AT SOME OF THE MAJORS WHICH SHAPED ERNIE’S LEGENDARY CAREER IN THE GAME •
MAJOR NO 8
Wins 1994 US Open at Oakmont – the one where Arnold Palmer made his farewell appearance – in threeway 18-hole playoff over American veteran Loren Roberts and Scot Colin Montgomerie. A third round 66 put Els in the lead on Sunday in only his second US Open. In the final round, Els benefitted from a controversial ruling after hitting his opening drive into deep rough. He was given a free drop when officials ruled that a broadcast truck was on his line, which was later adjudged a wrong ruling. In the Monday playoff the three protagonists were a cumulative 13-over-par, and Els recovered from a horrific 5-7-5 start to shoot 74, matched by Roberts, who then bogeyed the second sudden-death hole. Won $320 000.
MAJOR NO 20
A second US Open in 1997, at Congressional, and again it was over final round playing partner Colin Montgomerie who took second place ahead of third-round leader Tom Lehman, after a 69 by Els in the final round. A close duel was decided on the 71st hole, when Els made his par putt, and Monty missed his. At 27, he became the youngest winner of a pair of US Opens since Jack Nicklaus 30 years earlier. Special for Ernie was that both dad Neels and mom Hettie were at Congressional to hug him afterwards. Won $465 000.
MAJOR NO 41
A unique four-man playoff – the first in a major – was required at Muirfield in Scotland before Els triumphed over Frenchman Thomas Levet on the first sudden-death hole, Australians Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby having been eliminated at the end of the Open’s four-hole medal playoff. Ernie’s win was characterised by the way he handled adversity. He had a superb 66 in the second round (out in 29) to share the halfway lead, and then a magnificent 72 in dreadful weather on Saturday. Having battled to the turn in 40, he came home in 32 to be two clear going into the final round, where his up-and-down 70 saw him caught by his pursuers who were shooting in the 60s. Els owed his win to two remarkable bunker shots from awkward stances on Sunday; one out of a deep bunker to save par at 13, and the other on the fifth playoff hole at 18 under great pressure. He nailed the four-foot putt to take the claret jug.
MAJOR NO 80
A surprise win in the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham at the age of 42. Australian Adam Scott was four ahead with four holes to play, and bogeyed each of them to lose by one to Els, who had earlier birdied the 18th for a 68 and the clubhouse lead. Els had been seven behind after 36 holes, and six behind after 54. While some might say that Els backed into a fortunate victory, nevertheless he produced four solid rounds for a seven-under total of 273, which equalled his lowest 72-hole score in this championship or any major, the previous occasion having also been at Lytham in 1996. On that occasion he had bogeyed 16 and 18 on Sunday to lose by two to Tom Lehman.