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Last Updated: Monday, 16 July 2007, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Els strolls into focus for Open
By Colin Moffat

Ernie Els strikes form at Loch Lomond
Ernie Els found Carnoustie a gruelling experience in 1999

Ernie Els is such a relaxed competitor it is hard to imagine anything unsettling him.

So it came as a surprise to hear that the affable South African had endured a few sleepless nights the last time Carnoustie hosted The Open Championship.

That was because his daughter, Samantha, was just two months old in mid-July 1999.

There will be more than a few nervous golfers heading for the Angus coast since the punishing set-up reduced virtually the entire field to quivering wrecks eight years ago.

"Carnoustie is probably the toughest links course we'll ever play," Els told BBC Sport after his final round at the Scottish Open.

But he is likely to be as unperturbed as ever and will have taken great confidence from an impressive closing 65 at Loch Lomond.

"I've been looking to build some form going into a major this year," continued Els. "I didn't get it for the first two.

"But I love these two weeks here in Scotland and I'm hitting the ball well.

"It all depends on the weather, but I'll be working on my short game when I get to The Open and try to get some putts going."

His putter looked red hot at Loch Lomond's final hole, when, after receiving a wonderful ovation from the crowd, he raised the noise levels yet higher by draining a monster effort.

"I'd birdied 18 the first three days, so I knew I couldn't miss," he joked.

Despite the wonderful finish, which left him in third place, he wasn't entirely happy.

"I played well in stretches - got it going for three or four holes then let it slip and managed to get it going again," Els explained.

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MrRossko

"It was kind of up and down all day."

Having won the claret jug after a play-off at Muirfield in 2002, Els knows what it takes to win the most famous prize in golf.

And he has a fantastic record in The Open, having managed six top-three finishes in 16 attempts.

Aged 19, he made his Open debut in 1989 and that is the only occasion he has failed to make the cut.

That was at Royal Troon, where he was to lose in a play-off with surprise winner Todd Hamilton in 2004.

The two-time US Open champion finished on 14 over par on his 1999 visit to Carnoustie, which earned him a share of 24th place.

But, with young Samantha occupying his thoughts, he was in a sunny frame of mind, while most others were cursing the gusting winds and punitive rough.

"I knew the golf course was tough, but I was walking around in a bit of a cloud, so it didn't bother me," he said.

Els hasn't won since December's South African Airways Open, but it would take a brave man to bet against him being in the mix again.

Maybe he can pass on some baby tips to new dad Tiger Woods during the final pairing on Sunday.

SEE ALSO
Open tee times
16 Jul 07 |  Golf
Picking the Open champion
11 Jul 07 |  Golf


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