PEBBLE BEACH - Ernie Els believes he has a special week in store as he prepares to tee it up at his 27th consecutive US Open Championship at Pebble Beach, California, starting today.
The South African made his debut at the 1993 edition and has played every single one since, winning it in 1994 and 1997 for two of his four major championships.
His two appearances at Pebble Beach in 2000 and 2010 resulted in top-three finishes, but Els believes this could be his most significant week on the California coast.
Having played on a special exemption from the United States Golf Association the past two years, the 49-year-old accepts this may be his final US Open and he feels there would be no better place to end his run than at Pebble Beach.
Add in that his nephew Jovan Rebula is in the field after winning last season’s Amateur Championship, and it could be an emotional week for Els.
“There’s no more special place than Pebble Beach, period,” he said. “Every day is different out here, but it’s very similar if you know what I mean.
“It’s just an amazing place and to play a US Open here with my nephew in the field, it’s just unbelievably special.
“As time goes on, we will keep looking back to this week, if it’s my last one. It’s just wonderful that they’ve given me that opportunity to play and I’m going to make the most of it.
“If you’re ever going to have a blueprint on a US Open, this is the one. It’s just been fantastic to have played here in the past.
“I played in 2000 and 2010 and it’s very similar. It’s just a golf course that tests every ability you have as a golfer.”
Els and Rebula - his sister’s son - played together in the third round of the South African Open in Johannesburg earlier this season.
As a 21-year-old amateur, Rebula is in a very different place in his career to his uncle, but Els believes playing at Pebble Beach in a US Open will prove an invaluable experience.
“If he can make the cut, it will be great. It will give him a lot of confidence,” he said.
“Eventually he wants to become a professional golfer and this is a great learning ground, a great place for him and see what it’s all about. It’s a good family bonding at a US Open.
“I would never in my wildest dreams have thought that I’d still be playing and he’d be playing with me at a US Open. It’s fantastic.”
African News Agency (ANA)