Big birdie putt on 18 give Els SAS Champs title

Oct 12, 2020 | Featured, South Africans abroad

Ernie Els birdied the final two holes on Sunday to eke out a one-stroke victory in the SAS Championship at Cary in North Carolina for his second victory on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.

His birdie on 18 came from a 40-footer in the rain as he finished the 54-hole event at 12-under-par 204, one ahead of Colin Montgomerie, with Vijay Singh in third a further shot back.

 Els made the long putt on the par-four 18th three weeks after missing a two-foot putt on the final hole of the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach to finish a stroke out of a play-off. “It’s a crazy game,” Els said. “A couple of weeks ago I missed a very short putt to get in a play-off and today I make a 40-footer. Figure that one out.”

Els tied Montgomerie, playing three groups behind, with the birdie on the par-five 17th and pulled ahead with the long putt on the par-four 18th.

Els shot 70 and 68 respectively the first two rounds, and a bogey on the third on Sunday did not help his chances of making a comeback. But the 50-year old proceeded to rattle off three straight birdies on numbers six to eight and add four more on the back nine.

“I had 64 in mind,” Els said. “Especially on the final round, the guys, there were so many guys bunched. I was coming from six-under, I reckoned 14-under was maybe a good score, but then the conditions helped out and it became really tough. So, 66 just squeaked in there.”

It was Els’ second title in just 10 starts on the PGA Tour Champions, and he also held off the likes of Jim Furyk who missed a chance to become the first player to win his first three events on the circuit, closing with a 70 to tie for ninth at eight-under – four strokes behind Els. Furyk won at Warwick Hills and Pebble Beach.

Els’ victory came courtesy of some putting advice from Mark O’Meara. “Just by chance I saw him on the putting green the other day and we just started chatting a little bit,” Els said. “He uses the same putter that I use, so we started talking a little bit and I said, ‘Hey, have a look here.′ I didn’t have a great experience at Pebble obviously a couple weeks ago. He looked at me, and he’s a great putter and knowing a man that long, he gave me a nice assist. He told me what he felt I should do and here I am. So, I owe Mark O’Meara.”

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