Ernie Els (pictured) has now won four major championships. He proved by winning the British Open last July that he can still compete at the highest level. He had also contended at the US Open the previous month and Els can now rightly be called the champion golfer of 2012.
The South African first won a major championship at the US Open in 1994. He won that event again in 1997 but then had to wait another five years before winning his next major. He won the 2002 Open Championship and won his second Open ten years later.
There is an 18 year span between Els’s first major triumph and his latest. He has also finished inside the top ten at the US Masters on seven occasions. If he had managed to convert one of those winning opportunities at Augusta he would be now three quarters of the way to a career Grand Slam.
Els’s consistency at the Masters, especially between 2000 and 2004 when his worst position was tied 6th, should have earned him at least one Green Jacket. He would have then increased his focus for the US PGA Championship. Winning that event and the Masters would have meant Els joining just Gene Sarazen, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods as winners of each major at least once during their career.
In the context of this week’s Volvo Golf Champions, Els has plenty of course experience and is a multiple winner in South Africa, the country of his birth. Els first drew worldwide attention in 1992 when he won the three most prestigious tournaments in South Africa.
Our Player in Focus has won the South African Open on five occasions. His first title was won in 1992, the year he also won the PGA and Masters of the country of his birth. Two of Els’ South Africa Opens were won at Durban Country Club so he has the best course form of the entire field.
Els embarks on a new season at number 24 in the world rankings. Twelve months ago he was 56th in the standings and wasn’t even eligible to play in the Masters in April. He now has a five year exemption for the four major championships. His immediate future is secured and once those privileges are used up he will be the right age to begin to focus on the Seniors Tour.