Ernie: Putting that 3-putt in context

We've all done it – just not on the first hole of the Open Championship under the unrelenting examination of the world's television cameras, and in the era of the unforgiving repetition of a viral YouTube video.


Ernie Els three-whacked on the first at Royal Liverpool on Thursday, missing a two-footer and then missing the 18-inch back-hander coming back before he took a breath and tapped in for an opening triple-bogey seven. And he was seven-over after nine in a horror start to a major championship he has won twice in a glittering Hall of Fame career.


But if you weren't watching, then you would have seen what led up to that silly start and then the gradual disintegration of what could have been a solid start for the Big Easy: He hit an elderly spectator in the jaw with his tee-shot on the first, and he felt that he was at least partially responsible for the man's injury and discomfort.


Here's the story in his own words:


"There's a bunker on the left. And actually in the practice rounds I was looking to maybe miss it left. That is obviously what I did. It's obviously a dangerous shot, and obviously that's what happened, I hit the guy right in the face. And there was blood everywhere. I felt pretty bad about it, because I was trying to hit it, you know, left, which I did. And I probably should have started to move the people left on the left side, but I didn't do that. So I really felt bad hitting it there into the people. And hurting the guy the way I did. Hopefully he's better now. But it wasn't very nice.


"I actually thought it was almost going left of the people, but I guess obviously not. It was right in the face. Anyway, you think the worst. It was like a bullet coming at him. So he must have been in total shock. He didn't look very good. So I did speak to him, and he wasn't feeling too good getting hit.


"I was thinking about him after that. There's blood all over. And I was quite rattled. It wasn't nice. I was kind of finished. And then started missing short putts. It was a nightmare. So I'd like to put it behind me. I just hope the gentleman feels better, because he looked really bad when I left him there."

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