Bermuda, the 20th of October 2010: The smooth-swinging South African rattled up three consecutive birdies from the 14th on the way to a two-under-par 69 in difficult, blustery conditions at Port Royal Golf Course in Southampton.
That gave Els a 36-hole total of five-under 137, one better than first-round leader David Toms of the United States who closed with a 71. US Open champion Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland battled to a 73 to finish at three over, level with US PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer of Germany (71).
Els was tied for the lead with Toms after 15 holes and coolly rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt at the tricky par-three 16th to take command. “That was probably the biggest putt of the week,” the smiling South African said after parring 17 and 18 to clinch the winner’s cheque for $600,000. “For some reason I felt very comfortable over that putt.
“I was putting into the wind, so I could really hit it firm. I had a perfect line. Just one of those beautiful things, you know. It just kept curling and went in the hole. It was a key moment.”
The three-times Major Champion, who won the event in 1997 at Poipu Bay in Hawaii, was delighted to regain form with his putter after struggling on the greens the previous day. “I found something in my putting stroke,” said Els who knocked in a clutch 10-footer to save par at the 17th.
Toms, one stroke clear overnight, had chipped in for birdie at the par-four 12th and led by three after Els took the wrong club off the tee to bogey the par-three 13th. However, the South African drained a 15-footer at the 14th and then struck a superb sand wedge to three feet for a tap-in birdie at the 15th to draw level with Toms, who bogeyed 15.
“I felt like I didn’t necessarily lose this thing,” said Toms, who won his only major title at the 2001 US PGA Championship. “Ernie birdie-ing 14, 15 and 16, the putt he made on 16, I’d say he won the tournament.
The elite Grand Slam event, billed as “the most exclusive tournament in golf,” traditionally brings together the winners of the year’s four Majors. Els and Toms were late replacements in the four-man field for US Masters champion Phil Mickelson and the Open winner Louis Oosthuizen.