Four-time Major winner Ernie Els returns to Muirfield next week to defend his British Open title confessing if it were not for golf, he’d be selling hot dogs on a South African beach.
The 43-year-old South African is looking to become the first player since Nick Faldo in 1992 to win back-to-back championships at Muirfield.
And while Els has also captured 65 other victories around the world since turning pro in 1989, he heads to the East Lothian course speaking of the longevity golf has presented him.
“Well you are not going to find it in rugby, that is what makes golf so great, we are the only sport anywhere where you can compete as a fortysomething and at times beat twentysomethings,” said Els. “It is a wonderful sport that we play, and if it wasn’t for golf I would be selling hot dogs on the beach but I have golf and I can compete and win.
“So I am looking forward to the future, and you know, after, maybe at 55, I will go and sell some hot dogs at Herolds Bay.”
Els last year came from six shots behind Australia’s Adam Scott to post a final round 68 to claim victory by a stroke after Scott had bogeyed his final four holes in a score of 75 at Royal Lytham and St Annes.
Els overcame the elements and three players — Frenchman Thomas Levet and the Australian pair of Steve Elkington and Stuart Appleby — 11 years later to win in a play-off.
Muirfield will play an extra 158 yards longer this year than in 2002 while new tees have been added at seven holes, taking the overall distance from 7,034 yards when Els won there 11 years ago to 7,192 yards.
“I got my first look since 2002 a few weeks back and actually this course will still frighten the guys, especially when you get on the first tee, because you don’t see much else other than the rough,” said Els. “But with all this new technology we have now everything is fair, so honestly the guys will have a great time.”