PGA Tour

Els expects birdies aplenty

Ernie Els (AP)
Ernie Els (AP)

Pennsylvania - Two-time US and British Open champion Ernie Els said the heavy rains that drenched Merion Golf Club on Monday will make the 113th US Open a birdie-filled fight among many rivals.

"You're going to see a lot more birdies than ever at US Open venues," Els said. "Because of conditions, I think it's not going to bare its teeth the way it should... pin placements are going to be quite tough to protect the course.

"We're going to have a soft golf course this week all week. It means that if you're on your game you're going to have a lot of birdie putts. There are quite a few par-4s where you've just got to put it in the fairway and then you've got quite a short second shot."

Practice was suspended early Monday afternoon after torrential rains soaked the 6,996-yard layout where the year's second major championship is set to begin on Thursday.

"I see a very close race with a lot of players in contention this year, unlike other US Opens," Els predicted.

"It's going to be bunched. It's going to be under par. You will be seeing quite a few numbers in the red. It's going to be an exciting US Open. What number is going to win? I have no idea."

The 43-year-old South African, a former world number one, added last year's British Open title to the one he collected in 2002 and his 1994 and 1997 US Open crowns. But his days with the Claret Jug are numbered.

"I'm running out of time now. Next month I've got to give the Claret Jug back," he said. "It's hard to do. It was very great to have it in my possession again. I'd love to get it back again, but it takes a lot of hard work."

Els played a practice round Sunday, taking note of the several blind tee shots Merion offers.

While he sees the damp course as vulnerable, he would not go so far as to say any US Open, known for dense rough and lightning-fast greens, will offer up a round of eight-under par 62, which would be the lowest score in major championship history.

"I don't want to feel against anything but I'm not going to say anybody is going to shoot a 62 at a US Open," Els said.

"You've got more birdie opportunities than ever so guys who have never played a US Open, they might be lulled into, 'Hey, this is not all that bad.'

"I'm playing my 21st US Open so I've seen a lot of trouble out there. But through my career, this is the one where you can get on a run. You can make some 3s. That's not a number that's really familiar with the US Open.

"You start missing some shots, the rough is as bad as I've ever seen it. If you hit it in the rough here you're just advancing it 120 yards, 140 yards, most of the time. That's still very penal.

"But if you're on your game I think a guy could get a score going. I'm not saying 62, though."

One thing Els does not want to see is a rubber snake like the one Lee Trevino brought out at the first tee of a playoff he won over Jack Nicklaus at the 1971 US Open at Merion.

"Imagine. There would be snipers coming out of the trees," Els said. "There would be an investigation going on. Somebody might get shot.

"I don't like snakes. I hope they don't do it with me. I might have a heart attack."

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