Ernie Els put his ninth-place finish in the weekendÂs US Open into perspective as he looked back on the final stretch which saw a fourth major championship slip from his grasp.
ÂI wanted to try and get in a playoff,Â he said, Âbut I didnÂt hit the shots coming in, basically.Â
He finished with two bogeys in his final three holes to card a fourth-round two-over-par 72, and his total of four-over-par was three off Webb SimpsonÂs winning total.
The first of those bogeys came on the 16th, the 671-yard par-five that was the subject of so much speculation ahead of the tournament and the cause of much anguish during it.
ÂI just pulled that approach shot on 16,Â he said. ÂI wasnÂt meaning to go at that flag. I guess I deserved what I got. You canÂt miss it left there.Â
The result was his ball skittered down one of the frustrating shaved slopes that were so menacing around many of the greens. ÂIt was a tough up-and-down from there,Â he said.
And on 17, the hole which had catapulted him into contention when he eagled it in the third round, his tee shot made going for the eagle again difficult. ÂI missed the fairway on 17 and I guess I misread the putt. I thought I saw my playing partnerÂs ball really turn and I thought mine was going to do the same. But it went straight. So that was that,Â he said.
That he needed to rely on 16 and 17 to get him back into a position to challenge for the win was the result of a momentum change during his opening nine Â one which he battled for the rest of the day to reverse.
He had gone through the notoriously difficult opening six holes with just a single dropped shot, and then he lit up the scoreboards with a superb eagle two on the short seventh.
He was inexplicably short of the green with his tee-shot on the eighth Â and the shaved area in front of hat putting surface exacted its full toll on Els as the ball rolled fully 50 yards back down the hill. ÂI bogeyed that and three-putted nine to give my two shots back,Â he said.
He got himself back in the mix with a birdie on the 12th, but the 16th and 17th were to cost him dearly Â and by the time he bogeyed 18, the deal was done.
He came close to making birdie on 15, though: ÂThe putt on 15 just skirted the hole. That could have made a bit of a difference, but IÂll go to bed tonight thinking of the 16th, the third shot. That basically cost me the tournament.
ÂI played that hole four-over and I played the fourth hole four-over. So those two holes cost me the tournament,Â he added.
But he also saw the positives in his performance, one which so clearly announced his return to the highest level of golf.
ÂIÂm disappointed right now,Â he said. ÂBut I thought I was a lot calmer. I felt in control. So thatÂs a good sign. WeÂve got two majors left and IÂm going to take a nice break now and try and regroup and come back. I feel that where I was last year and where I am now, itÂs a huge change. IÂm contending now, I feel I have a chance, and if I eliminate those mistakes, I could win one of these things again. So I got I got the belief back.Â