The Big Easy won at Oakmont and Congressional Country Clubs in 1994 and 1997, respectively. Els has always enjoyed the US Open and this week at Pinehurst will be no different.
In a recent blog he wrote: “This tournament has long been one of the highlights of the year for me. It’s a while since I won my two titles, but I’ve been in the mix a bunch of times since then and I always like my chances of having a strong week.
The 44-year-old makes his third trip to Pinehurst this week and his experience will prove crucial. His success in the majors, which include wins at the Open Championship in 2002 and 2012, add to the threat he presents.
Having played the US Open here in 1999 and 2005, I have to say I really love what Crenshaw and Coore have done with the subsequent restoration. You’ve got more options on this golf course now, especially with the shots into and around the greens. You’re going to have to use your imagination and play a real variety of shots, which is more of a British Open type quality rather than a typical US Open. All in all, I think we’re in for a great championship.
Retief Goosen joins the fray as a fellow two-time winner of the US Open and his ability to play on the quickest of greens is a huge factor to consider. The Goose’s recent form is nothing to be scoffed at – last week the 45-year-old made his 12th cut of the 2014 PGA Tour season with consecutive rounds of 66 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Behind the former champions come major champions Louis Oosthuizen and Charl SChwartzel, the future hopes for South African success in the majors. Oosthuizen won The Open in 2010 with a seven shot victory over Lee Westwood at The Old Course. He also lost out on a green jacket when Bubba Watson hit a magical cut from the pine straw during a playoff at Augusta in 2012. With a top result of tied ninth at the US Open in 2011, King Louis always has a chance of competing in the majors.
Likewise Schwartzel, who also tied for ninth at the 2011 US Open and in the same year won the Masters with four birdies over his final four holes. Top 15 results at both The Open Championship and the PGA Championship mark the top-ranked South African as a likely contender.
The final player into the week is sectional qualifier Garth Mulroy, who played his way into the US Open through European qualifying at Walton Heath, where he shot rounds of 69, 68 to tie for sixth. Mulroy is a two-time Web.com Tour winner and a resident of North Carolina and makes his long-awaited debut at the US Open this week.
For all five South Africans it will be frustrating at times, because the US Open guarantees challenging holes. Els has been through the motions enough times to know what it will take at Pinehurst this week.
“You’ll hear players talking a lot about ‘being patient’ – trust me, it’s an essential virtue in the US Open and again that’s fine with me,” the Big Easy said.