Stats & Info: Ernie Els

Top Stats to Know: Open Championship

July, 17, 2013
Ross Kinnaird/Getty ImagesDefending champion Ernie Els is looking to do something that hasn't been done in over 100 years.
The Open Championship tees off at Muirfield early Thursday morning, with coverage starting at 4 a.m. Eastern on ESPN. To get you ready, we take you through 18 things you need to know.

•  Muirfield is hosting the Open Championship for the 16th time. Among venues currently in the Open Championship rotation, only St. Andrews has hosted more often.

•  Eight of the last 13 leaders after 54 holes have gone on to win the Open Championship. And 11 of the 13 champions were in the Top-3 entering Sunday.

•  The last 19 majors contested have produced 18 different winners. Rory McIlroy (2011 U.S. Open, 2012 PGA Championship) is the only player to win multiple major titles during this span.

•  Twenty major championships have come and gone since Tiger Woods last victory. That’s twice as long as the next longest drought since Woods played his first full season as a professional in 1997.

•  Tiger missed four of those majors and has only two Top-3 finishes in his last 16 majors. Over his first 46 majors, he had 14 victories and 22 Top-2 finishes.

•  Woods has struggled recently on Saturday and Sunday in the majors. In his last six majors, he is 6-under in the first two rounds and 21-over in rounds three and four. He has not shot a subpar round on the weekend at the Open Championship since 2007.

•  Muirfield is the site of the worst round of Tiger’s major career as a professional. He shot an 81 in the third round in 2002, four shots worse than any other round he’s played at a major as a pro.

•  Ernie Els returns to defend his Open Championship at Muirfield, where he won the last time the Open was contested here. He’s the first player since Greg Norman at Turnberry in 1994 to attempt a title defense while also being the last winner at a particular venue.

•  The only time a golfer successfully defended an Open Championship while also being the last winner at the current course? James Braid at Muirfield in 1906.

•  Rory McIlroy has a history of starting fast at the Open Championship. In five appearances, he has averaged a 67.6 in the first round but slumped to a 72.9 average over the last three rounds.

•  Phil Mickelson hasn’t had much success across the pond – he has only two Top-10 finishes in 19 career Open Championships, and last year was the fourth time he missed the cut.

•  Matt Kuchar is another golfer who isn’t a fan of the Open Championship. He has missed the cut in six of eight appearances, but finished tied for ninth last year.

•  Lee Westwood has never won a major, but has finished in the Top-3 seven times since 2008. Those seven Top-3 finishes without a major title are the most since 1934.

•  Dustin Johnson is the only player under par at the Open Championship in the last two years combined.

•  Johnson is also the only player to finish in the Top 15 each of the last three years.

•  Sergio Garcia has 18 Top-10 finishes in majors, with seven of those coming at the Open Championship.

•  Louis Oosthuizen is one of four South African players to win the Open Championship; the other three have all won multiple times.

•  Only four players have made the cut in each of the last six majors -– Jason Dufner, Adam Scott, Steve Stricker (who is not at Muirfield) and Tiger Woods.

Scott's slip leaves door Open for Els

July, 22, 2012

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports/US Presswire
Ernie Els took advantage of four bogeys on the final four holes by then-leader Adam Scott
to win his fourth career Major title and second Open Championship.

Ten years ago yesterday, Ernie Els won his third major – a victory in a four-way playoff at the 2002 Open Championship to give him his first career Claret Jug.

After Adam Scott made his fourth straight bogey to finish Sunday's final round, Els wouldn’t need another playoff to get his second.

Els trailed Scott by six strokes entering the final round. That’s tied for the second-largest 54-hole deficit overcome by an Open champion (Padraig Harrington was down six in 2007, and Paul Lawrie was down 10 strokes in 1999).

Ernie Els made birdie on the 72nd hole in what proved to be the difference in a one-shot victory over Scott. With the win, Els becomes just the eighth player all-time to win majors in three different decades. He joins Billy Casper, Raymond Floyd, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, John Henry Taylor, Lee Trevino and Harry Vardon on that list.

Els is also just the sixth player to win multiple U.S. Opens and Open Championships. The others to accomplish that feat are an elite crew: Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Nicklaus, Trevino and Tiger Woods.

After the second round, Els trailed then-leader Brandt Snedeker by seven shots entering the weekend. Since 1995, only two major champions were down by that many strokes after 36 holes - Els and David Duval, who won the last time we were at Royal Lytham for the Open Championship.

Els was enshrined into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011, and with his win, he's the first male Hall of Fame member to win a major after his induction since Trevino won the 1984 PGA Championship after being inducted in 1981. Besides Els and Trevino, the only other players to win a major after being inducted are Nicklaus and Player.

As for Scott, he is just the second player since 1960 to hold at least a four-stroke lead entering the final round of the Open Championship and not win. The other was Jean Van de Velde, who was leading by five strokes entering the final round in 1999. Van de Velde famously triple-bogeyed the final hole, forcing a three-man playoff, which was won by Paul Lawrie.

Tiger Woods finished tied for third, his best finish in a major since the 2009 PGA Championship (second). That won’t be the key storyline regarding the 14-time major winner, though.

Woods was three-over par on the weekend after playing rounds one and two in six-under. Tiger has now failed to break par in any of his six weekend rounds in majors in 2012, and has failed to do so in 11 of his last 12 weekend rounds in majors overall.

A total of 17 majors have been played since Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open. Tiger has seven top-six finishes in majors in that empty-handed span.

Tiger traditionally starts slow at Masters

April, 4, 2012

AP Photo/Rob CarrTiger Woods is the favorite to win his fifth green jacket at Augusta.

Not only is Tiger Woods coming off his first PGA TOUR win since 2009, but he also comes into the Masters hoping to pick up where he left off at last year’s event.

In 2011, Woods shot a career-best Sunday round of 67 at the Masters. He played the first nine in 31, tying his career-best score on the first nine at Augusta.

Historically, Woods’ worst round at the Masters has been the first, where his average has been 72.1. (Also, the first hole is Woods' worst at Augusta, +16. He’s birdied it only four times as a pro, with 18 bogeys and one double bogey.) His second-round average is 70.4; 69.8 in the third; 70.6 in the fourth.

Only once since 2001 has Woods posted a score in the 60s in the first round (68 in 2010).

Despite being a slow starter, Woods has made the cut every year since 1997, which is the longest active streak at the Masters (see chart).

Woods has never led the Masters wire-to-wire. In fact, no one has pulled that off since Raymond Floyd in 1976. When Woods won his most recent Masters in 2005, he was tied for 33rd after 18 holes.

Woods ended his winless streak two weeks ago, now he will try to end his drought at majors. Since winning the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, 14 majors have been played without a Woods victory, although he did not play in four of those events.

If Woods wins, he would be the 14th different winners in the last 14 majors. South Africa’s Charl Schwartzel is the defending champion, and will attempt to join Woods on a short list of players who have won this event in back-to-back years: Jack Nicklaus (1965-66), Nick Faldo (1989-90) and Woods (2001-02).
Charl Schwartzel

Schwartzel tees off at 2:24 ET on Thursday. However, there are two prominent South Africans not in the field, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen. Els’ streak of consecutive Masters appearances has come to an end at 18. Goosen also did not qualify, and will miss the Masters for the first time since 1999.

The first round tees off early on Thursday; however, recent history has said the winner will most likely come from the final group on Sunday.

Since 1991, only two Masters Tournament champions were not in Sunday’s final group: Zach Johnson in 2007 was in the third-to-last group, and Schwartzel was in the second-to-last group last season.