One of the most popular and successful players of his generation, Ernie Els is set to make his 30th appearance in The Open at Royal St George’s in July.
To mark his forthcoming milestone, we look at some of the most impressive statistics relating to Els’ illustrious career at The Open.
The most rounds under 70
No player has broken 70 at The Open more frequently than Els, who achieved the feat for the 42nd time when he shot 69 in his second round at Royal Portrush in 2019.
The South African’s tally of 42 sub-70 rounds puts him five ahead of his nearest rival, Sir Nick Faldo. Jack Nicklaus takes third place on the list with 33, while five-time Champion Golfer Tom Watson has broken 70 on 30 occasions at The Open.
Els is also responsible for the most consecutive sub-70 rounds in the Championship, having managed seven successive scores in the 60s from the first round in 1993 through to the third round in 1994.
When he strung together rounds of 68, 69, 69 and 68 at Royal St George’s in 1993, he became the first player to break 70 in all four rounds at The Open and fail to win.
That feat has since been matched by Jesper Parnevik and Rickie Fowler, in 1994 and 2014 respectively, while Els did it for a second time in 2004 at Royal Troon.
Consistently under par
In 15 of his 29 appearances at The Open to date, Els has finished the Championship under par. That gives him the most under-par finishes by any player since 1963, one more than Nicklaus and Faldo, and two more than Watson.
A golden decade in the noughties
Although Els’ second Open win came in 2012, at Royal Lytham & St Annes, his peak period in golf’s original major undoubtedly came between 2000 and 2007.
Victory at Muirfield in 2002 was one of six top-four finishes for Els in eight visits to The Open, as he repeatedly contended for the Claret Jug.
In all, he boasts 13 top-10s and nine top-5s at The Open, with almost a quarter of his appearances (seven out of 29) yielding finishes of first, second or third.
Play-off agony and ecstasy
Els is one of only two players to have won and lost play-offs at The Open.
His two experiences of extra holes came two years apart, as his success at Muirfield in 2002 – in The Open’s only four-man play-off to date – was followed by Todd Hamilton edging him out at Royal Troon in 2004.
Conversely, the other player to have tasted victory and defeat in Open play-offs did so in two Championships 34 years apart!
Tom Watson got the better of Jack Newton in an 18-hole play-off at Carnoustie in 1975 to secure his first Open win, before famously coming agonisingly close to victory at Turnberry in 2009 aged 59. On that occasion, he was ultimately beaten by Stewart Cink in extra holes.
A front-nine 29
In addition to making 29 appearances at The Open to date, Els is among an elite group of players to have scored 29 over nine holes at the Championship.
His victory at Muirfield in 2002 was aided by a front-nine 29 in round two. In the history of The Open, Denis Durnian is the only player to have carded a lower score for nine holes, shooting 28 over the outward nine at Royal Birkdale in 1983.
Mastering the Postage Stamp
In the last 40 years, just two players have recorded holes-in-one at the shortest par-3 on The Open rota, Royal Troon’s iconic eighth, the Postage Stamp.
Dennis Edlund did so in round two in 1997, while Els recorded an ace on day one in 2004, finding the cup from 123 yards.
Els' hole-in-one is one of many magical moments the veteran has experienced at The Open and he still has the opportunity to deliver plenty more, starting at Royal St George's in July.