SOUTHPORT, England — As he stood by the 18th green at Royal Birkdale on Sunday, Ernie Els admitted that he lost any chance of winning a second British Open title three days earlier, on Thursday afternoon.
That was when the 2002 Open champion covered the last nine holes of the first round in an abysmal 45 strokes for a round of 80, his worst ever score in his favorite major championship.
"I played myself out of the tournament, going nine over in nine holes," Els said. "How do you come back from that?"
You don't. But Els gave a good account of himself nonetheless. It's a testament to the South African's resilience that he might still find himself inside the top ten by day's end. On Sunday Els shot a one-under-par 69, the second time he has broken par in brutal winds since his horrific first round. He made two birdies against just one bogey to finish at 12 over, good enough to tie for seventh.
"At least I managed to break par twice. I can look forward to the next major," Els said. "I'm doing quite a few things right. It was just a battle out there. It's been a tough week but at least I gave it my best shot."
Els will go to Las Vegas to work with coach Butch Harmon in advance of next month's PGA Championship at Oakland Hills near Detroit, an event he has never won. "I've got one major left and I'm going to work my tail off," Els said. "I'll go and see Butch this week and sort out all the doubts I have in my technique. Then hopefully I'll be able to really compete."
"I'll get ready for the next one," he added. "It's a good thing it's in two weeks time."