LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England – In two Lytham Opens Ernie Els had never finished outside the money, running tied for third in 2001 and second in 1996. That the Big Easy already has a claret jug on the mantel should have made him an easy bet for the 141st Open, yet he was a distinct longshot heading into the season’s third major.
This was not the same Els who won in a playoff at Muirfield in 2002. Although not broken, the game’s smoothest swing seemed irreparably bent by the drain of a balky putting stroke that has weighed heavily on him in recent years.
But Els is nothing if not doggedly persistent. To claw his way back he first switched to a belly putter and in January he began working with Dr. Sherylle Calder, a visual skills coach who worked with the South African national rugby team.
“She's been working with the Springbok rugby team for a long time and worked with the English rugby team. She wanted to work with me for about the last eight years, so I gave it a chance now,” said Els, who begins Sunday’s final round at Royal Lytham & St. Annes six strokes behind leader Adam Scott. “She's been wonderful.”
Although progress has been slow, Els has just one three-putt this week at the Open Championship and flashed a rare glimmer of confidence on the eve of the final round.
“For some reason I've got some belief this week,” Els said. “I feel something special can happen. I've put in a lot of work the last couple of years, especially the last couple of months. So something good is bound to happen.”