SOUTHPORT, England—This Open Championship has turned into Groundhog Day for Ernie Els—different day, same story. Saturday marked the third straight day that the South African has walked off the 18th green at Royal Birkdale with his frustrations boiling over.
On Thursday he signed for an opening round of 80, his worst ever in the British Open. Yesterday he bogeyed the last to fall to 9-over-par for the week, causing him to angrily slam his putter into his bag and also slam the door of the scorer's hut. Today Els signed for a round of 74 and admitted that his chances of winning a second Open crown had been all but blown away in the strong winds.
"I said this morning if I could break par or stay where I was I would be maybe four off [the lead]," Els said. "I think if you're four, five, six over you still have a chance to win."
Finishing two hours before the leaders teed off, Els stood a seemingly insurmountable 14 strokes off the lead held by K.J. Choi.
The 2002 Open winner blamed his woes this week on a sloppy short game and announced that he's heading to Las Vegas to work with coach Butch Harmon. "It's been a frustrating week on the greens, and when you're not making putts it's more frustrating. There's been a lot of missed opportunities, a lot of missed putts," he said.
"I'm going to see [Harmon] for two days in Vegas and work on the short game and get it sharp. I think I'll start scoring then as it's been a tough year up to now."
Since winning the Honda Classic in March, Els has posted just two top-10 finishes, a T-6 at the Players Championship and a T-9 at last week's Barclay's Scottish Open.
(Photos: Jon Super/AP)