Ernie Els, one of the world’s best players, winner of four majors, had a meltdown on the putting green familiar to most amateurs. Els began his opening round of the British Open with a sharp hook into the gallery. And that was only the beginning of the trouble. Els’ ball hit a fan in the jaw, leaving the fan bloodied and sent to the hospital. The whole scene was jarring and left Els in pieces, mentally. Anyone who’s ever played golf knows how important it is to be focused only on the shot at hand, and that having any recurring non-golf thoughts can be enough to unravel your game. Els admitted that the scene left him in a tough spot mentally:
“I was kind of finished, and then started missing short putts. It was a nightmare. So I’d like to put it behind me. I just hope the gentleman feels better, because he looked really bad when I left him there.”
For Els, the image never left his mind–the image of the spectator he sent to the hospital. Els went on to triple-bogey the hole. Or what casual golfers know as “just gimme a seven for that hole.” More shocking was how Els tripled the hole. On the green, Els had a tap-in for bogey, but somehow managed to miss a one-foot putt, and then miss another one-footer that he putted backhanded. Judging from the backhanded putt, as well as Ernie’s facial expression after the hole, it didn’t seem like Ernie was caught up with his score too much. He looked shaken at what had just transpired.
Els finished the round with a brutal 7-over 79, leaving him in danger of missing the cut. It’ll take a miraculous round tomorrow for Els to make the cut, but hopefully he’ll at least have a clear mind heading into Friday.