As well as being a very sweet win for Ernie Els personally, the Big Easy’s dramatic British Open victory at Royal Lytham on Sunday ensures South Africa’s supremacy over fierce sporting rivals Australia in the Open record books.
Both countries had nine wins apiece before the 2012 edition and Adam Scott looked like bringing up the 10th for his nation before imploding.
But the Open, and indeed Lytham, has brought South Africa much good fortune and both Bobby Locke and Gary Player lifted the Jug here before Els.
In any event Locke’s four Opens, Player’s three, Els’ two and Louis Oosthuizen’s triumph at St Andrews in 2010 now make the tally: South Africa 10, Australia 9.
Contrary to popular opinion there is, incidentally, hardly a golfer around with a fiercer dedication to self-improvement than Els, who has moved up from 40th to 15th in the world rankings and, with earnings of 1,674,725 euros, has leapt into second place in the Race to Dubai behind Justin Rose, who missed the cut at Lytham.
Els earned the equivalent of R11,6-million for his victory while fellow South African Thomas Aiken picked up the equivalent of R1,84 million for a share of seventh place.
At 42, Els has practised harder than he ever has - he’s worked out in the gym, he’s fine-tuned his already splendid swing under the guidance of coach Claude Harmon, and (as has been well-documented by now) his putting has gone from zero to hero status following the career-changing help he has had from vision skills specialist Dr Sherylle Calder.
Several of the world’s top golfers were in contention at the start of play on Sunday but it was the 42-year-old Big Easy, now the owner of four Major titles, who was by far the most composed under the huge pressure that the players have to deal with in a championship as huge as a British Open.
Els was the latest in a long line of great champions to have triumphed at Lytham on the 11th occasion the course has hosted the oldest Major.
Els joined Americans Jones, Tom Lehman and David Duval, South Africans Bobby Locke and Gary Player, Spanish magician Ballesteros, twice, New Zealand’s Bob Charles, England’s Tony Jacklin and Australian great Peter Thomson on the honours board at the Lancashire links.
Els has always dreamed of completing golf’s coveted Grand Slam - winning all four of the Majors at least once in a career. It has only been achieved by five golfers – Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.
Technically, Els’ victory over Scott brings him no closer to that goal as he won the 2002 Open at Muirfield. But emotionally and mentally he’s closer to a Grand Slam. Much closer.
It’s as if he’s been restored to life as a world-class golfer after years of self-doubt. Now he believes anything is possible - and winning the Masters and the US PGA to complete the Slam (he already has two US Opens) is at the top of the list.
The US PGA at Kiawah Island in South Carolina is just around the corner, starting on August 9.