British Open Notebook: Els recalls first win in a quieter golf era

2013-07-17T00:00:00Z British Open Notebook: Els recalls first win in a quieter golf eraThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

GULLANE, Scotland - Ernie Els has won major championships 18 years apart, and one big difference is the reaction of the media and the time commitments.

It can be exhausting, and last year's win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was even tougher because he wanted to honor his sponsor's commitment by playing in the Canadian Open the next week. He never really recovered the rest of the year.

It wasn't like that in 1994 when he won the U.S. Open at Oakmont.

"I think I did Matt Lauer and "Today" - Katie Couric was there still back in the day - did a little thing with them," he said. "Went back to the 18th green at Oakmont, and that was the only thing. I didn't even own a house in those days. I got back on my plane, myself and (wife) Leizl, and flew back to London. We rented a cottage from Renton Laidlaw, and we just hid from the world there.

"The whole thing has changed a lot, especially since '94," he said. "There are so many story lines that people want. So it can get very, very busy."

Back to the start

Gary Player is as eager to share his thoughts about golf as he is to show off his body.

Player, who posed without clothes in ESPN The Magazine's body issue to make a point about the dangers of obesity, has over the years voiced his opinion on everything in golf from the way the ball travels to the possible use of drugs in the sport.

He returned to Muirfield on Tuesday not to talk about problems in the game, but to reminisce about winning his first Open here in 1959.

"I came here as a young man with no money and to win this great championship and have your name on that trophy meant so much to me," Player said. "Then when I came through those gates this morning and I looked up the 18th fairway here at Muirfield and just said a little prayer of thanks and gratitude that I could have the career I have been loaned."

Player said he meant loaned for a reason. He said golf is such a fickle game that nothing is permanent, mentioning players like David Duval and Ian Baker-Finch as Open champions who could never reach the top level of golf again.

Player, 77, is tied for fourth place all time with Ben Hogan with nine major titles, including three in the British Open.

After winning his first at Muirfield in 1959 he came back to win at Carnoustie in 1968 before taking his final title in 1974 at Royal Lytham.

French connection

Thomas Levet was part of the four-man playoff at Muirfield in 2002, and he went one extra hole of sudden death before making bogey on the 18th hole and losing to Els. He didn't qualify to play this year. Neither did the other two from that playoff, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington.

France at least is represented by Gregory Bourdy, so maybe he can get atonement from his country.

"The question to Gregory is, 'Who will be only the second French player to win the British Open?' " Levet said. "And the answer this week will be, 'Gregory Bourdy.' "

Arnaud Massy in 1907 at Royal Liverpool is the only Frenchman to win a claret jug.

Chip shots

• Ben Curtis is back with a familiar face on the bag. He has reunited with Andy Sutton, the English caddie he hired in 2003 to work for him at Royal St. George's when Curtis won the British Open.

• Charles Howell III would have been the second alternate, but he withdrew from the Open on Sunday when Jordan Spieth qualified by winning the John Deere Classic. If Zach Johnson had won the Deere, then Joost Luiten would have gotten in, and Howell would have moved up to first alternate.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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