Ernie Els coming home for big finish

Ernie Els has confirmed that he will defend his Alfred Dunhill Championship title at the Leopard Creek Country Club near Malelane next month.

The South African will return to Leopard Creek as one of the biggest stars in the December 7 to 10 tournament, which is played on South Africa’s number-one-ranked course and is part of the European Tour’s international schedule.

Els’s victory in last year’s event was one of the most satisfying of his career, coming in only his second tournament back from an almost five-month layoff due to knee surgery.

The triple Major champion had to overcome a three-shot deficit at the start of the final round and did so with a strong charge on the back nine that saw him claim a three-stroke victory over Charl Schwartzel, winner in 2004, and Louis Oosthuizen.

Els’s return to Leopard Creek forms an integral part of his build-up to 2007 and his ultimate goal of regaining his top form.

“I’ve got just a couple of tournaments left till the end of the year and I’ve got to build for next year,” said Els.

“After a lot of hard work I’m finally feeling comfortable on the greens again. That’s a good omen for what’s left of this year.
There is still plenty to play for this year. I need to stay focused on what I’m trying to achieve in my golf game and make sure that I play well for what’s left of 2006. That should then give me a solid platform going into the new season in January.”

Although his victory in the 2005 Dunhill Championship was his only win of the season, Els has still enjoyed a solid year in the United States and Europe.

He produced seven top-10 finishes on the European Tour—including third in the Open Championship—to end the season in fifth place on the Order of Merit. His performance on the PGA Tour yielded eight top-10s.

Els was also in contention in the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship at St Andrews in October and went on to finish third behind eventual Order of Merit champion Padraig Harrington.—Sapa

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