'Big Easy' plots PGA surprise

Johannesburg - While all the hype surrounds whether Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy can follow his British Open triumph with another Major, South Africa's Ernie Els will be hoping to pick up his third different Major title at the US PGA Championship starting at Valhalla Golf Club, in Louisville, Kentucky, on Thursday.

Els, a four-time Major winner, won the US Open twice in 1994 and 1997, and the British Open in 2002 and 2012.

If "The Big Easy" can pull off a surprise, as he did in the 2012 British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes to take the Claret Jug, he would join the 25-year-old McIlroy with three different Major titles.

"Five of my last eight rounds have been in the 60s, giving me a tied-12th finish in Canada and tied-26th at last week in Bridgestone," the 44-year-old Els said on his website.

"I want to win golf tournaments, but these results show me enough to make me feel optimistic that we can have a better final third of the season."

Els has not won since the BMW International Open in Germany in June last year on the European Tour, but felt the time was right to notch up another victory.

"Obviously the motivation is extremely strong this week for the final major championship of the year at Valhalla.

"I played both the previous two PGA's here tied-61st in 1996 and tied-34th in 2000. It's good to be back. I love Nicklaus golf courses; Valhalla is always in unbelievable shape and the PGA of America sets it up very nicely."

Keeping the ball on the short grass would be the key to scoring well, according to Els.

"You've got to hit it long and drive the ball well, play the game through the air and try to stay out of the juicy rough.

"It's a tough test, but if you play well you can really score around here."

And while American 14-time Major winner Tiger Woods would be in a race against time to see if he could get his injured back ready to tee it up, Els would in contrast need to get his mind right if he wants to contend.

"The build-up to these Major championships is all about feeling like you can get yourself ready, but at the same time not overdoing it, especially in the hot and humid weather that we're going to experience this week in Louisville."

Els was paired with American Rickie Fowler and Frenchman Victor Dubuisson in the first round.

Tim Clark enters perhaps the most in-form of the South Africans after his win in the Canadian Open, PGA Tour event, two weeks ago. His win was the first for a South African on the Tour in 2014, and the straight-driving Clark could well contend if he can continue his rich run of form.

Other South Africans in the field would be George Coetzee, Charl Schwartzel, Louis Oosthuizen, Rory Sabbatini, Branden Grace, Richard Sterne and Johan Kok.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
loading... Live
SuperSport United 0
Sekhukhune United FC 1
loading... Live
Tottenham 1
Norwich City 0
loading... Live
Manchester United 0
Crystal Palace 0
loading... Live
Leeds United 1
Brentford 1
loading... Live
India 325/10 & 276/7
New Zealand 62/10 & 140/5
Voting Booth
What are your views on the World Rugby men's Player of the Year nominations for 2021 not including any Springboks?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
It's a disgrace! Both Siya Kolisi AND Eben Etzebeth should have been nominated!
39% - 5547 votes
Siya, at the very least, should have been included after a superb season
7% - 936 votes
Etzebeth has been SA's best player this year and should feel hard done by
20% - 2889 votes
Get over it! Moaning about this just sounds like sour grapes!
34% - 4729 votes