British Open Champ Els struggles with Ocean Course
KIAWAH ISLAND — Ernie Els was on top of the golfing world three weeks ago.
Down four shots with three holes to play, Els came storming back and somehow captured his second Claret jug, winning the British Open at the Royal Lyntham & St. Annes club.
Coming into this week’s 94th PGA Championship, Els said he felt like he was still on top of his game.
But after three rounds on Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, Els is well off the lead at 4-over par after his 1-over 73 Saturday.
It’s been a frustrating three days for the Big Easy, who hoped to keep his momentum going after his surprise win at the British Open.
“I don’t know what it is,” Els said.
“I’m trying hard, but I’m not sure what’s wrong with me this week. I was really good the first day and I should have scored a lot better on Thursday. Friday was a struggle for everyone and I actually felt like my ball striking was OK. (Saturday) was just average.”
Els struggled with par-5s on the front nine — with bogeys on the second and seventh holes — that had been among the easiest holes of the day.
“I was on and off a bit,” Els said. “(Saturday) morning the conditions were not too bad. It was a club and a half or two-club wind. The wind picked up in the afternoon, but if you were on your game you could still score pretty well and I wasn’t.”
After bogeying the 10th hole, Els finished strong, going 1-under par over the final eight holes.
“I got into a bit of a rhythm on the back nine,” Els said. “I missed a couple of putts I’ve been making lately.”
Els said he wishes he had skipped the Canadian Open, which was played the week after the British Open.
“I think my schedule has killed me,” he said. “I had committed to play in the Canadian Open and I was going to play, but it took a lot of energy to do it.”
Playing in last week’s Bridgestone Invitational didn’t help either.
“It’s a tough week and a long walk and that took a lot out of me,” Els said.
“How do you cancel one of those tournaments? You can’t. Sometimes you’ve just got to grind it out and go play. I set the schedule at the start of the year. I knew what I was getting into.”
Despite being well out of contention for the Wanamaker Trophy, Els is by no means upset with his play this week at the Ocean Course.
“It’s part of what we do and it’s a part of being on the tour,” Els said.
“You go through ups and downs like this every season. For me, the weather has been great, the course is in great shape. I just wish I was playing better.”