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SAN FRANCISCO: South Africa’s Ernie Els eagled the par-five 17th at The Olympic Club on Saturday to put himself in the hunt for a third US Open title 15 years after winning his second.
Els holed out from the fringe around a closely mown collection area below the 17th’s elevated green, the eagle and three birdies helping him rebound from three bogeys in the first five holes on the exacting Olympic Lake Course.
“I’m in a much better mood now than I was on the sixth tee,” Els said. “To come back and play the last 12 holes in five under is quite amazing.
“The shot at 17 is what dreams are made of — a shot like that in a US Open.”
Els said he had about 50 yards for the chip.
“It’s one of those one in a thousand shots.”
Els’s two-under par 68 gave him a two-over total of 212, well within striking distance with Jim Furyk setting the pace on the course at one-under.
Els, who won the 1994 and 1997 US Opens as well as the 2002 British Open, missed out on the Masters last month because his ranking wasn’t high enough, and he couldn’t earn the US tour win that would have gained him an invitation.
After that disappointment, he now has a chance to set the record for longest span between US Open wins.
The longest to date has been 11, by two people: Hale Irwin who won in 1979 and 1990 and Julius Boros who won in 1952 and 1963.
“Even if I’m within four (shots) that’s a great chance,” Els said. “I think if you get it into the red numbers, I think you’ll win this tournament.”
Els, who apologized in May for a foul-mouthed criticism of the watering of the course at the PGA Wentworth, said his mental attitude has been “quite good” despite the a typically treacherous US Open course setup that punishes poor shots with a vengeance and doesn’t always reward good ones.
“I’ve had a couple of train wrecks out there,” he said “The 16th first round I made eight, and I made double on four the first day.
“Hopefully I got those out of the way.”
“Experience helps around here,” he added. “For some reason I’m patient again this week.” -- AFP