“I got a lot of support this week. But you guys gotta ask yourselves the question: were you just being nice to me or did you actually believe I would win? It was a great feeling.” Ernie Els
Golfer Ernie Els made a beautiful 20-foot birdie on the 18th hole of his final round of the British Open. He’s got that smile that looks as if it shields secrets. On this Sunday, there was no hiding the fact that he figured out somewhere along that back nine that the tournament was actually within reach. Once he knew that, the Big Easy got a bit more aggressive and played to win. It seemed improbable after starting the day seven strokes back of leader – and his close friend – Adam Scott. The likeable Aussie Scott had played the tourney like a smooth operator and most thought he had it in hand.
On Saturday, I took to Twitter to talk with the fellow sports nuts about Els’ play. I knew that he was playing incredibly well, but I didn’t think that all of the golf planets would align and deliver him the Claret Jug. Here are a few of the tweets:
We continued discussing the play of Els and the past play of Payne Stewart. I made no secret of the fact that I was pulling for Tiger but there was something about the way Els was walking on Saturday that said he could do it. I wasn’t the only one who thought so – a guy placed a $70 bet on Els with 469 to 1 odds. He won over $32,ooo. In situations like that, I wish I were a gambling woman.
Sunday started out the same as the other days with Adam playing incredibly. Other contenders moved up and down the leaderboard, but not enough to knock Adam off the top. Tiger triple-bogeyed the 6th hole and couldn’t find the magic on the remaining holes. He finished an impressive 3rd – or rather an impressive finish for others. Then there was a shift in the universe. As the players closed in on the final four holes, I thought Scott still had it wrapped up. Photos of the championship plate revealed that the engraver had begun writing out Scott’s name. But the young phenom ended up bogeying the final four (4) holes. The last hole could have forced a playoff but it lipped out and Scott saw his hopes of winning the British fall away. He stood with the grace and charm that gained him many new fans (I’m one of them.)
At the end of the day and during the awards ceremony, Ernie Els did his best to reassure Adam Scott that his day would come soon. Els knows the sting of losing badly and closely and later said that he hoped Adam wouldn’t take it as hard as he did. He then engaged the crowd with that big grin and quick wit. But he also took time to give homage to his country. The South African mentioned his gratitude for the leadership of President Nelson Mandela.
“I’ve got to thank obviously first of all President Mandela who’s been such a great influence in our country. We have been truly blessed to have a man like President Mandela take us through a very difficult time in our country. Everybody now, we can see the success of the country now and it’s only because of President Mandela.”
The two, Els and President Mandela, have formed a very close bond, with the President calling Els often to congratulate or console him depending on the tourney outcome. With this win, Els said that he wants to share a drink poured from his well-deserved Claret Jug for his country’s leader. Man! What I wouldn’t give to be standing in that room.