ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – Much is made of experience when the golf world descends on storied linksland like the Old Course and Ernie Els certainly enjoys a healthy amount of institutional knowledge when it comes to The Open.
The two-time Open champion has 11 top-10 finishes in the championship and he was runner-up in 2000 at St. Andrews. It should have been no surprise that the South African found himself on the first page of the leaderboard late into his opening round on Day 1 at St. Andrews.
“A lot,” Els said when asked how much experience came into play on Thursday. “Still, even playing it so many times, you're still a little unsure of the bounce and so forth. I hit in the bunker on 6 off the tee, which I don't think I've ever been in, and then obviously what I did on 17.”
Yes, No. 17. Even for Els, this was a first.
Cruising along at 4 under par through 17 holes, the Big Easy’s tee shot sailed right over the sheds that once housed trains, bounced off a gravel path and careened into the Old Course Hotel. Els made a double bogey-6 on the penultimate hole on his way to a 2-under 70.
"I played good. I putted nice and played good," he said. "I just had that one frickin' tee shot on 17. Anyway, that's my day."