Johannesburg – South Africa's Ernie Els rolled back the years and was close to shooting the lowest round in Major championship history, as he fired a near-flawless six-under, 65, in the final round of the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Sunday.
The Big Easy was on course to equal or better the record of 63 shot by a host of golfers in Majors – including Tiger Woods and last year's PGA Champion Jason Dufner – but ultimately had to settle for a share of seventh place on 11-under-par, five behind winner Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.
“It could have been something real special,” said Els after his round.
“I'm still quite pleased with that.”
The four-time Major champion went out in five-under-par, 30, with four birdies in a row from the third and another on the ninth.
Els was six under after 11 holes, and one off the lead at that point, and needed just two more birdies, coming in to shoot 63 on the par 71 layout.
But a run of pars and a bogey on 17 killed his chances, despite a birdie at the par five 18th.
It was by far the best performance by Els at the Majors this year, after missing the cut at the Masters and the British Open and a tie for 35th at the US Open.
“From what I have been all season long, I've not really been on my game.
“But I feel that my clubs, the Adams clubs, we really got dialled in now. The putter feels good.”
After the four consecutive birdies, Els missed makeable putts for birdie on both seven and eight to keep his run going.
“When I missed those putts on seven and eight, I said, 'let's get to 14 (under).'
“Still I felt that my game was in such great shape that I could get to 14. That meant that I needed to make five birdies in ten holes, which I felt was really on.
“I fell short and a bogey on 17 obviously hurt a little bit. I was trying to get to 14 to have half a chance.”
The 44-year-old, who won his only Major with the long putter at the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2012, went back to the short putter at the beginning of the year.
The round was interrupted by a torrential downpour before the final groups had even teed-off, but the near two-hour rain delay had a positive effect on Els, who was on his second hole.
“Just after the rain came, almost the whole golf course was underwater, especially the fairways.
“The greens, they did a hell of a job. I thought the greens were great. Obviously the fairways were very, very wet.
“This is a great course, a great spectator course, but for a Major, this was as gettable as you are going to get.”
Fellow South African, Charl Schwartzel, also played well compiling a final round 66 to finish in a share for 15th, on nine under for the week.
Louis Oosthuizen contended early in his round with a birdie on his second hole to get to 10 under, but in the end, the 2010 Open champion could only manage a level par 71, also in 15th place.
Richard Sterne finished in a tie for 36th on three under for the week, while Branden Grace ended in 47th spot on one under for the event. – Sapa