That was 13 years ago. Els was just 24 years old. He endured in a playoff. He has won 60 times since then.
Yet he arrives, something of a sympathetic figure because he hasnt completely healed yet from knee surgery in 2005. The Big Easy has slipped to No. 5 in the world rankings. And he hasnt won an event in the United States since the 2004 Memorial.
So it was interesting Tuesday at Oakmont when Els was asked about Phil Mickelsons wrist injury and the whole concept of playing with pain.
Ive had legs, knees, fingers, wrists, my nose ... everything, Els said cataloguing his hurts. Youve just got to go with it. Bring a couple of Advils and get on with it.
FATHERS AND SONS:
This note is appropriate with Fathers Day coming Sunday:
Amateurs Jeff Golden and Chris Condello both have their fathers on the bag as caddies this week. I couldnt imagine having anyone else on my bag for something like this, said Condello, the Ivy League medalist this year for Columbia.
GREENS WITHOUT ENVY:
The players all remember the 2004 U.S. Open at Shinnecock when the seventh green became unplayable, at one point on the weekend, because the speed got out of control.
Last year USGA course set-up guy Mike Davis was very careful not to let that happen on the first hole at Winged Foot, that courses greasiest green.
Phil Mickelson says there are six or seven greens that could get out of hand at Oakmont if they dont get the needed watering. Most notable among them, he said, are No. 1, No. 10 and No. 12.
Tiger Woods added that he thinks the first hole, a 482-yard, par-4, may be the toughest hole on the golf course.
Asked for his opinion on the meat of the golf course at Oakmont, Sergio Garcia said, How about 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15.
Its one part of the meat, but its not the whole meat. Its not the whole, you know, chicken wing or whatever you want to call it.
Garcia, who is Spanish, speaks very good English. But it seems something has been lost in translation here. At the same time, its clear the point he is trying to make.
Yes, its that time again to remind everybody that no European has won a major championship in this century. Paul Lawrie of Scotland was the last Euro to win one of the Big Four when he triumphed at Carnoustie in 1999. Since then the Europeans are 0-30 in major championships.
Padraig Harrington, No. 11 in the world, came close last year, finishing fifth at Winged Foot, and is a player a lot of people think can break the Euro jinx. Just dont ask him about jinxes.
I think thats a way of just using historical data to try and put something on a future event. At the end of the day, who knows who is going to win this tournament this week? If the Europeans have won the last 25, would we have better or less chance of winning the next one? The law of averages says a European will win one eventually.