Golf

Can Ernie make it 5 majors?

2012-07-23 12:11
Ernie Els (File)

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 titles.

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 five.

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 South Carolina.

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.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    ernie els  |  golf
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