ERIN, Wis. – “On the tee, the 1994 and ’97 U.S. Open champion, Ernie Els.”
The announcement caught Els off guard. “I thought, man, has it been that long?” he laughed.
The 2017 U.S. Open may well be Els’ last at a championship that defined his career, with his exemption for winning the 2012 Open Championship running out this year.
“It’s been 25 years of great stuff,” said Els, who closed with a 74 at Erin Hills for a 7 over total. “How many guys can say they played in 25 years of U.S. Opens?”
Els, 47, played in his first U.S. Open in 1993, and won the ’94 championship for his first PGA Tour title. Three years later the South African outlasted Colin Montgomerie at Congressional to win his second title.
“This one and The Open [Championship] were my two best tournaments and it’s because of my iron play, the demand it puts on your game,” said Els, who has 10 top-10 finishes at the U.S. Open and missed the cut just five times in his career.
Els could still qualify for next year’s U.S. Open and said he plans to continue playing both in the United States and around the globe. He’s also qualified to play next month’s Open Championship through his 60th birthday.