Cape Town – A rejuvenated Ernie Els, fresh from hauling in
Adam Scott so stirringly to win the British Open, suddenly has a shout at
banking a place within the top 20 greatest golfers ever in terms of major
GALLERY: Ernie Els wins the Open The 42-year-old South African, now sporting four majors of
his own after being stuck on three for a decade and seemingly a fading force
until events at Royal Lytham on Sunday, shoots from 40th back to 15th
in the world rankings and may even feel he has one or two further successes
left in him among the quartet of blue-chip tournaments on the annual calendar.
Els moves alongside late compatriot Bobby Locke on four
majors, and will advance to standalone second most productive South African in
history – Gary Player still sits very safely placed as this country’s primary
pride with his nine, and a top-fiver on the all-time list – if he can make it
The last major of the current year is the PGA Championship
(an event Els has never won) from August 9-12 at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in
It is possible that even Els himself isn’t sure at this
stage how long his top-flight career will continue for, but the globally
popular “Big Easy” does have some time on his side, if history is a measure, to
add to his quartet of major triumphs.
The oldest major champion, after all, is Julius Boros, who
won the 1968 PGA Championship aged 48 and four months.
Boros, coincidentally, sandwiches the list of top 10 oldest
major winners at both ends, considering that he also won the 1963 US Open, at
the age of 43. Between him on that chart are such names as Jack Nicklaus, Hale
Irwin and Raymond Floyd.
The Hungarian-American Boros died in 1994 after a heart
attack while seated on a golf cart – the year in which Els recorded his maiden
major success at the US Open.
In 1984, Player very nearly eclipsed Boros as oldest major
winner: also in the midst of his 49th year at the time, the Black
Knight finished just behind champion Lee Trevino at the PGA Championship.
Player had won his own last major, the 1978 Masters, at
Els’s current age of 42.
And in a huge fillip for all top-level golfers fitting into
the 40-plus bracket and even considerably above it, Tom Watson (eight career
majors) was almost responsible for one of the most age-defying sports feats of
all time just three years ago.
It was then, aged a jaw-dropping 59, that he ended joint-top
with Stewart Cink at the 2009 British Open at Turnberry only to succumb,
physically and mentally exhausted, in a four-hole playoff.
At the time it had been an amazing 25 years since Watson
last won a major, the 1983 British Open at Royal Birkdale.
Els currently sits among 27 golfers to have achieved four
majors or more (Nicklaus’s 18 rules the roost, with Tiger Woods nearest on 14).
But if he can snaffle a fifth he would climb to within the
ranks of an even more elite 18 to have achieved that tally or more.
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