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Don't count Els out at this year's Open

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TROON, Scotland – Ernie Els played his first Open in 1989 and hasn’t missed the event since 1992. Muirfield and Royal Lytham stand out, because he won there, but Royal Troon also holds a special place in the South African’s heart.

He finished runner-up to Todd Hamilton in 2004 and tied for 10th in ’97 when the Open was played at Troon.

“I really like the golf course,” Els said on Wednesday. “I actually like it more this time around than I did in ’04. It’s a bit greener, in ’04 it was brown and these greens are so small that it makes it difficult to control the ball into the greens.”

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The two-time Open champion begins his 22nd championship with a healthy amount of confidence despite not playing his best golf in recent years.

Although he’s missed almost as many cuts (seven) as he’s made (nine) on the PGA Tour this season, he’s fresh off his best finish of the season (fifth at the Quicken Loans National) and his affinity and experience for links golf always seems to bring out the best in him.

“I wanted to feel what it was like under the gun again. It was good playing in the final group at Congressional. I had a great chance there,” Els said. “I feel quite good about it, I made a lot of good putts under the gun, made a lot of birdies and it feels like my swing is coming around with [David Leadbetter].”