Ernie Els has nothing left to prove at this point in his career. The 2011 Hall of Fame inductee and South African legend has 71 career victories internationally, with 19 of those coming on the PGA Tour. He has four major championships and has won the U.S. Open twice (1994, 1997).
Now 47 years old, nobody would look down on him if he just coasted for a few years until he is eligible to tear up the Champions Tour, but Els made a big statement in the first round of the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, which was “I’m not done yet”.
Els, who has received attention this week as someone who may be playing in his last U.S. Open, sprinted out of the gate with a four-under front nine, which lead to a two-under 70 and a tie for 18th, his best showing in a U.S. Open in a long time.
- Swan Song?: Ernie Els made the U.S. Open field as an Open Championship winner of the past five years (2012), the last year of that exemption. There is widespread speculation that this could be Els’ last U.S. Open appearance.
- Hot Start: Els got off to a phenomenal start on Thursday, reaching -4 after four front-nine birdies. He stayed at -4 through 16 holes, slipping a little at the end with bogeys on 17 and 18.
- E-Stats: Els hit 11 of 14 fairways in his first round and 12 of 18 greens in regulation. He was especially tremendous on the greens, gaining 3.690 strokes on the field with his putting.
- Heavy Rough: Els’ 2017 season has been a nightmare for the 47-year-old. In 15 events, he has made just five cuts, with no starts better than a T35. He managed to make the cut at The Masters, which snapped a seven-start missed cut streak, but shot an 83 in the third round.
- Three’s Company: Els is seeking to become the seventh player with at least three U.S. Open wins (4 – Willie Anderson, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus; 3 – HaleIrwin, Tiger Woods).
“I felt that some of my game is coming back. My putting’s back and short game’s pretty good. So I’ve just got to play golf.”