I look forward to it before or after the U.S. Open, said Els, who has played each of the last four weeks, including two starts on both the PGA and European tours.
Your preparation going into the U.S. Open, it's so that you are trying to get your game into good form. When this tournament is before the U.S. Open, it's wonderful, because you go from a very tough golf course, like here at Westchester, and going to the U.S. Open helps you be prepared.
I think you get used to the type of grass, especially on the greens. It's a kind of poa annua grass, it's very slopey, so you can get your speed right and it's the kind of slope you're going to get at the U.S. Open, he added.
But Els also noted that this year things are a bit different. The U.S. Open will not be played on a traditional, tree-lined layout. Shinnecock Hills is the host, a links-style course where wind will be a major factor.
In the past (Westchester Country Club) been a great tune-up, maybe not so much this year because of Shinnecock being out in Long Island, and the wind is going to blow and be a little different, but normally it's a good tune-up, he said.
While Els and many others believe the event to be the perfect primer -- most years -- to the seasons second major championship, winning in Westchester hasnt translated to Open success.
In 1983 the then Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic was contested for the first time the week prior to the U.S. Open. Seve Ballesteros won the event, and then tied for fourth at Oakmont Country Club.
Thirteen times since, the tournament now known as the Buick Classic has played the opening role to the U.S. Open.
Only four of those 14 Buick Classic winners have finished in the top 10 the following week in the U.S. Open. Three of the 14 missed the cut; four failed to even qualify for the Open; and Dennis Paulson, who won the Classic in 2000, withdrew at Pebble Beach.
Beginning in 1994, the Buick Classic has been played on a rotating basis around the Open. In even-numbered years it is contested before the Open; after it in odd-numbered years.
And those even-numbered champions have not, for the most part, been able to ride their Buick momentum into the National Championship.
Lee Janzen won the Buick in 1994 and then missed the cut at the U.S. Open, where he was the defending champion. Ernie Els, in 96, won the Buick and then tied for fifth at Oakland Hills. J.P. Hayes and Chris Smith, in 1998 and 2002 respectively, were not eligible to compete in the Open. And Paulson, in 2000, was on his way to a missed cut after shooting 75-76 at Pebble Beach when he decided to withdraw.
On the other hand, the Open has been a great springboard into the Buick Classic winners circle.
Vijay Singh tied for 10th in the 95 U.S. Open and then won at Westchester Country Club, which has hosted the Buick Classic since its inception in 1967. Els won both the 97 Open and 97 Buick. Duffy Waldorf didnt qualify for the 99 U.S. Open, but still won at Westchester. Sergio Garcia tied for 12th in the 2001 Open and won the following week. And Jonathan Kaye used a tie for 10th last year at Olympia Fields on his way to his first PGA Tour victory.
This will be Kayes first title defense. Hell get a second chance at next years FBR Open.
The 33-year-old started the year strongly, with a pair of top-10s in his first four starts, culminating with a win in his hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz. But since that victory, he has missed five cuts in 10 starts, including at last weeks Memorial Tournament.
Els, who knocked off Tiger Woods, Fred Couples and more at the Memorial, has had a tremendous amount of success in this event. He won in 96 and 97, and has three other top-5 finishes.
Hes the only repeat winner in tournament history, but hes not the only multiple champion.
Jack Nicklaus won the inaugural Buick Classic in 1967 and then again in 72. Seve Ballesteros won in 83 and 88, and Vijay Singh won in 93 and 95.
Nicklaus, Els and Hale Irwin are the only players to win the Buick Classic and the U.S. Open in the same season. Nicklaus accomplished the feat in 72; Irwin in 90; Els in 97. Irwin and Els did so in back-to-back weeks ' both times the Open and then the Buick.
Fifteen Buick Classic winners have also won the U.S. Open in their careers ' before or after their Buick victory.