All 60 of the top 60 in the world will tee up at Chambers Bay Golf Club on Thursday in the hopes of becoming the 2015 US Open Champion, but Ernie Els, who ranked 102 at the start of the week, could well be the man to beat.
“My US Open record – with two wins and 10 top-10s, three in the last five years – always gives me optimism. Obviously my game needs to come around a little, but I’ve done that before in Majors. I’ve got a nice draw in the first two days, as well, in the company of two classy guys and former champions – Retief Goosen and Geoff Ogilvy,” he said.
The Big Easy has a knack for links-style courses and Chambers Bay, which is a brand new venue for the year’s second major, looks to be the type of course he thrives on.
“It’s exciting being here at a new golf course that very few of us have seen before, and I’ve always enjoyed the process of studying and analyzing a golf course and figuring out a strategy of how to play it.
“This layout is every bit the links challenge, right down to the all-fescue terrain that is a first for any US Open. Another links-like feature is there are no trees on the course, save for a lone fir on the 16th tee. The heart of the Chambers Bay defense structure lies in the sandy waste areas around the heavily contoured greens’ complexes, which represent a serious workout for your short game. Strategically, it’s very intriguing and it has a lot of intricacies, distinctive features and quirks,” he said.
Els has a very relaxed persona, which is a real attribute on tough courses, especially when it comes to playing a major championship. His ability to take the bad with the good could prove to be a deciding factor this week.
“Majors are all about getting your head in the right place before you start, but your head has to stay in the right place all week and that’s going to be key here. This course plays hard and fast, it will give you some funny bounces and stuff will happen that tests you and your patience. You have to try to stay positive mentally and not get frustrated,” said the 45-year-old.
Nine South Africans will tee up this week at Chambers Bay, eight of whom will be looking to emulate The Big Easy. For Els the week is full of promise, but converting that into a result remains to be seen.
“No one quite knows exactly what to expect, although it’s safe to say the player who wins will have done a great job adapting their game along the way, using their imagination and being creative with their shot making,” he concluded.