Big Easy Does it Again


SURREY, England -- Ernie Els was in control on Sunday and walked off with a 4-and-3 victory over Thomas Bjorn to capture the HSBC World Match Play Championship for a fifth time.
'It's great. It's been a wonderful championship and so much history in this tournament, so many great people were involved with this championship,' said Els, who pocketed $1.67 million for the win. 'I had a great week.'
Els, who has already secured the European Tour's 2003 Order of Merit money title, joined Gary Player and Seve Ballesteros as the only five-time winners of this event.
'I've never been a man for record books,' said Els, when asked about the possibility of winning a sixth. 'But I've got the opportunity now to maybe do something. I love this championship and hopefully I'll be ready next year.'
Els never trailed on Sunday and won the par-4 third with a birdie and went 2-up after Bjorn bogeyed the par-3 fifth.
The South African then birdied the par-4 seventh and took a 4-up lead as Bjorn dropped another shot at the par-4 eighth.
Bjorn battled back with wins at the 12th and the 14th before taking the 15th after Els found a bunker with his approach. The Dane was 1-down but Els soon regained the momentum in the match after Bjorn bogeyed the 16th.
Els rolled in a five-foot putt for a birdie at the par-5 17th to take a 3-up advantage into the afternoon session at Wentworth.
After lunch, Els won the fifth after Bjorn's tee shot bounced into the crowd. Els then won the ninth to go 5-up as Bjorn continued to struggle off the tee.
Bjorn dropped another shot at the 10th to go 6-down and it was only a matter of time before Els sealed the deal. However, Bjorn was not ready to give his friend the title without a little showmanship of his own.
'There's times in your golf career that you get a chance to do something that's a bit more than the normal thing,' said Bjorn. 'I had my chance today.'
Both players reached the green in two at the par-5 12th and Bjorn drained a 20-foot putt for an eagle to win the hole.
At the par-3 14th, Bjorn had the shot of the tournament, and the first hole-in-one in the history of the World Match Play, as his 4-iron off the tee landed on the putting surface and rolled into the cup for an ace.
'It's an unbelievable shot,' said Els. 'I think we definitely will remember this tournament with that shot. I think it was an amazing shot and what a time to do it.'
After the excitement of the previous hole, the duo halved the par-4 15th and victory was Els'.
'We want each other to do well,' said Bjorn. 'And then to go out on a big occasion like this and have to face each other in that way. It's difficult. But you've got to put those things aside. We both want to win golf tournaments, we both want to do well and did.'
Related Links:
  • HSBC World Match Play Scoring
  • Full coverage - HSBC World Match Play Championship