Ernie Els of South Africa holds the Claret Jug after winning the British Open.

Party-loving Ernie Els has over the years gained a reputation as a man who likes a pint or two. In fact it was once said that his private jet carried more beer than fuel.

But Els, according to The Sun newspaper, was on the wagon for more than two months prior to his heart-stopping victory in the British Open at Royal Lytham on Sunday.

In an interview with the newspaper, Els’ long-time caddie Ricci Roberts – who is like a brother to the golfer – said: “We were having dinner one night a couple of months ago when Ernie suddenly announced: ‘I’m not going to bother to have a glass of wine tonight’.”

And then Els added: “In fact I may not have a drink for a while – even if I never have another party night for the rest of my life, I still think I’ll be well ahead of the game.”

Roberts then revealed that he hasn’t seen his man touch a drop since. “Even when he was handed a glass of champagne after the Open win, I didn’t see him take a single sip. I know he said he wants to meet Nelson Mandela again to share a drink from the Claret Jug, but there’s a good chance that it might be filled with Diet Coke.”

Els, 42, has re-dedicated himself to golf and has worked awfully hard in the gym, on his swing with American coach Claude Harmon, as well as linking up with eye-skills specialist Dr Sherylle Calder who, though various exercises, has got him “reading” and “seeing” putts so much better. Whereas for the last couple of years his putting has cost him, now the putts are diving in from all over the place.

Now he’s given up drinking!

Roberts, meanwhile, isn’t about to share his employer’s “on-the-wagon” decision. Ricci part-owns a pub in Yorkshire, not very far from Lytham, and on Sunday night and into Monday morning kept it open until 4am. At one stage the police arrived, complaining about the noise. “But,” Ricci told The Sun, “I just pointed to a picture of Ernie and said, ‘sorry officer, but we’ve just won the Claret Jug and it’s not something you stay quiet about’. The police were cool about it.”

Meanwhile, the controversy rages on about whether the belly putter should be banned. Els won at Lytham with a belly putter, as did Webb Simpson in the US Open in June, as did Keegan Bradley in the 2011 US PGA Championship last August. So that’s three of the last four.

“I’m actually against belly putters,” Els confessed, “because you can anchor it to your body and it’s almost like cheating. But as long as it’s legal I’ll continue using it just like the other guys. But if they do ban it, I’ll be only to happy to comply. I think it’ll be better for the game if it does go.” – The Star