Big Easy eyes fourth majorComment on this story
After missing out on The Masters, Ernie Els is back and ready to win at the second major of the year when the US Open starts at the Olympic Club, San Francisco, California on Thursday.
“I'm just really excited about the challenge of trying to win my third US Open,” said the 42-year-old on his website.
The three-time major champion, who won the US Open in 1994 and 1997, said although he had battled on the course in the past, he hoped to draw on his positive experiences in the past.
“Although it was a long time ago, I still feed off the experience of having won this tournament a couple of times and I like to think I maybe have another US Open win in me.
“That's what I'm here for!”
It has been 18 years since his first major triumph and, after missing out on a trip to Augusta in April, as his world ranking was too low, Els will fancy his chances with an improved game in the last few events, which have seen his world ranking rise to 43rd.
The former world number-one highlighted what those initial major successes did for his career.
“Winning my first US Open back in 1994, when I was just 24 years of age, was a big boost to my confidence. Winning a second US Open while I was still in my 20s...well, that was really something.
“I guess those two quick majors established me and set me up in my career on the PGA Tour. And I must say I have always enjoyed playing US Opens.
“It is a tough, tough test of your game and your temperament, but I feel confident about my chances every time I tee it up in one of these things.”
Looking at the layout, Els said driving the ball in the short grass will be key.
“Basically, the course is built on the side of a hill so the fairways slope, sometimes quite severely, and often in a reverse camber to the direction of play.
“To hit a lot of fairways at Olympic you have to drive the ball extremely well and actually that's been one of the strongest parts of my game this year.”
Other South Africans in the field include US Open debutant George Coetzee, who played his first major at the 2011 British Open, where he finished as the top SA player in 15th position.
Retief Goosen, another two-time US Open winner, will be hoping for difficult scoring conditions and tight fairways which suit his game.
Tim Clark makes a return to major competition after battling at The Masters and missing the cut, following an elbow injury.
He will come into the tournament off three cuts made as he seems to be back on the way up. The gritty player from Umkomaas will be hoping to grind it out and finish well on Sunday.
Trevor Immelman, a major champion with his Masters triumph in 2008, will join three-time European tour winner this season Branden Grace in the field.
Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen both tee off on Thursday and would like to add an elusive US Open title to their major tallies. – Sapa