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15 Jul 2008 14:52
Potentially difficult weather conditions and the absence of Tiger Woods from the Open Championship starting on Thursday have created opportunities for as many as 40 players to win, believes one of the favourites Ernie Els.
If it rains a lot and there are squally winds, as are forecast, Els also thinks these will give him an advantage over many others in the field.
“I have played in all kinds of conditions in Britain, so I know all about it,” the 38-year-old South African said.
Els, winner of the Open at Muirfield in 2002 and with ten top-10 finishes in his 17 years of Open experience, said he is more comfortable on courses in Britain than those of majors played in America.
“I seem to be at a better level mentally here, it’s just something with me. I have developed a good game plan for Royal Birkdale and I will stick to it.
“The real key to winning here, though, boils down to the second shots and to positional play with occasional lay-ups.
“But equally important is in quality ball striking in wind and rain—whether you are 23 or 38 years old.
This has to be consistently good in difficult conditions.
The absence of Woods is bad for the championship, he commented. “But a lot of other players will now feel they have a real chance of winning. There will be 30 or 40 of those.”
He named Graeme McDowell, winner of last week’s Scottish Open, as a serious contender.
Els advised Woods not to come back too soon following his knee operation.
“I really feel for him being out of action for so long. It is really very difficult for anybody, let alone somebody like him.
“I made the mistake of doing that after my own operation and I paid the price” he said. Els went on to miss five cuts during the early part of this season, which he inferred was caused by returning to the game too soon.
With a mischievous grin Els said he was not “overly disappointed that Tiger is not here. But whether here or not I will just play the course and simply try to make a score lower than anybody else’s”.
Then he went off for a practice round with Lee Westwood and fellow South African James Kingston. - Reuters
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