Els returns to Congressional, site of '97 Open win


BETHESDA, Md. – Ernie Els is playing in his first Quicken Loans National event, despite winning the 1997 U.S. Open here on the Blue Course at Congressional Country Club. Historically, Els has opted to play in Europe this time of year because he feels it better prepares him for the British Open. In fact, he is the defending champion of this week’s BMW International in Germany.

Els hopes that the Stateside start will give him a much-needed spark. He has dropped from 27th to 56th in the Official World Golf Ranking this year and has missed six cuts in 16 events. His only good finish of the year was at the WGC-Match Play where Els lost to Victor Dubuisson on the last hole of the semifinal match. His next best finish was a 19th-place tie at the Memorial.

“I love the golf courses up here in the Northeast,” Els said Wednesday. “And being here at Congressional (Country) Club where I’ve been made an honorary member, just everything is very nice, so I just have to play some decent golf this week.”

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It came as no surprise that the conversation turned to tournament host Tiger Woods. Els has played plenty of golf with Woods over the years and still believes that the game’s biggest draw has a lot left in the tank.

“He’s in a position unlike any other player currently playing the sport that he can change history, so that’s really important for him and for the game of golf going forward,” Els said. “It’s going to be really interesting.

“I think Tiger’s swing has changed through the years but he’s changed it because of his body. But he’s got the strongest mind out here. So I think, with that in mind, I think he’s got a real good chance of still breaking Jack Nicklaus’ record.”