Notes Els in War of Words with USGA

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TROON, Scotland -- Ernie Els isn't going to beat himself up for shooting 80 in the final round of the U.S. Open, which cost him a chance at a third title and the No. 1 world ranking.
 
But he let the U.S. Golf Association have it - not only for the way Shinnecock Hills was set up in the final round, but for comments by a top USGA official that Els gave up.
 
'That was out of control,' said Els, who made double bogey on the first hole and went on to his worst score ever in a U.S. Open. 'I went from second to ninth with an 80, and that tells you how ridiculous it was.'
 
Tom Meeks, senior director of rules and competition for the USGA, later said that an average score of 78.72 was not ideal and his staff might have done things differently if he knew the greens were going to dry out that quickly. But he also noted winner Retief Goosen and runner-up Phil Mickelson played the best golf.
 
'But let me also say this,' Meeks told the Boston Globe. 'I think a lot of golfers lost their patience and gave up early in the round. I really think Ernie Els gave up after the first hole.'
 
The Big Easy bristled when told of the remarks Tuesday.
 
'How do you give up?' Els said. 'That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in my life. I've never given up on any round of golf in my life. If I did give up, I would have shot 100.
 
'You know what? They have got no idea,' he continued. 'They've lost the plot in the story. To take one of the best golf courses in this entire world and to make it a farce like that, they've got egg on their face.'
 
Goosen, who grew up with Els and played with him in the final group, had his own observations. He was asked whether Els helped him out once it was clear the Big Easy could not win.
 
'Not really. He was still trying hard,' Goosen said. 'I think after No. 10, that's when he really sort of gave up. I think he felt he was well out of it. He was trying to encourage me, but in general he was trying to stay away, let me do it myself.'
 
BEN BASHING
Darren Clarke wanted to make sure people understood. He was in no way taking anything away from Ben Curtis. But...
 
'This week the best player is going to win,' Clarke said. 'It's a stern test, and chances are it will come from the guys at the top of the world rankings.'
 
Royal St. George's was certainly a stern test last year, too. Some players even complained the deep rough and narrow fairways made it unfair.
 
Curtis barely qualified for last year's British Open, then persevered when everyone else fell apart to become perhaps the most improbable major championship winner in recent times.
 
Still, Clarke seemed to be suggesting that the win by Curtis was more of a fluke than anything.
 
'The best player is going to win this week, and that's not to take anything away from Ben Curtis at all last year,' said Clarke, who has never won a major title. 'But he was obviously a surprise to a lot of people, but he won the golf tournament.'
 
He won it partly because Thomas Bjorn imploded in a bunker on the 16th hole, giving up his lead and opening the way for the American.
 
Bjorn wasn't making any excuses, however.
 
'Ben Curtis played better than anybody else through the tournament,' Bjorn said. 'That's why he won.'
 
VOLATILE PAIRING
Colin Montgomerie and Thomas Bjorn have had a few run-ins while paired together on the European tour. The next occasion will come in the first two rounds of the British Open.
 
Both players downplayed previous incidents.
 
Last year at the Volvo Masters, Montgomerie missed a short putt and stomped off the green without waiting for Bjorn to hole out. Bjorn smiled and waved at him.
 
Then in Thailand at the Johnnie Walker Classic, Montgomerie was hacking up a hole and walked across the bridge as Bjorn was trying to chip. The Dane glared at him, and they exchanged words in the scoring trailer.
 
What to expect Thursday? Both say the story is overblown.
 
'We dealt with it there and then, and it's over with,' Bjorn said. 'We've always had a good relationship and we will continue to have a good relationship.'
 
In fact, Bjorn and Montgomerie said they had dinner Tuesday night.
 
This led to some probing questions. Was it just the two of them? Were they seated at the same table or merely in the same room?
 
'Its like having dinner with the queen - you and another 500 guests,' Montgomerie replied. 'If you've had (dinner with the queen), I don't know. I can speak from experience.'
 
Serving as Switzerland if there is a feud is Frank Lickliter, who has a temper of his own.
 
Lickliter, who grew up in blue-collar Ohio, once cursed at Brad Faxon during a silly-season event when Faxon came over to make sure Lickliter was taking proper relief from a hazard.
 
NOT THEIR BEST
Paul Casey of England is disappointed that Britain has produced only one major champion in the last eight years. Without citing anyone by name, he suggested too many young players were spending more time in the pubs than on the practice range.
 
'There are certain guys that show the George Best syndrome,' said Casey, referring to a Manchester United soccer star whose career ended prematurely with alcohol problems. 'They maybe (throw) it away a little bit. But I don't think there is enough talent coming through.'
 
Casey, who went to Arizona State, said he thinks it will take another year before young British players like Luke Donald, Justin Rose and Ian Poulter start winning big events.
 
'It's frustrating that there is a bit of a lull just now,' said Casey, who tied for sixth in the Masters. 'The last European winner of a major was Paul Lawrie (in 1999 at Carnoustie). It's sad, really.'
 
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