For all the players that got off to great starts at the 2014 Open Championship, there’s at least one former champion who probably wishes he could just hit the reset button, wake up and start all over.
Such was the case for Ernie Els. Teeing off in one of the afternoon’s featured groupings with Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson, Els’ day went south from his first swing. At the 458-yard, par-4 first, the “Big Easy” hit a massive hook into the fans. Although he knew it was left from the start, the ball ended up striking a fan in the jaw, sending him to the hospital.
Els, always a class act, checked in on the man, but was understandably shaken by the fact that, at least at first glance, it was more than just a bump on the shin or a bruised arm. Although Els later said that he spoke with the fan, who will be fine, but that the incident stuck with him throughout much of his day.
Els made triple-bogey out of the gate, carelessly three-putting from about two feet. His body language said it all – he wasn’t thinking about the putt, or even the fact that he was playing in a major championship. Even though the spectator getting hit was nothing more than a freak accident, he wasn’t able to just ignore what had happened.
By the time he made the turn, Els was seven over par. He cleaned it up a bit on the second nine, but by then the damage had been done. He’s tied for 145th, and six shots off what the cut line would be if all scores held through the second round. With two Claret Jugs to his name and the better part of two decades spent in yearly contention for the Open title, it’s a rough way to go, but the Big Easy gained a lot of respect for showing such genuine concern for a spectator who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.