By Ernie Els
It's a great feeling being here as a major champion again. It’s been quite a few years now. I've got the Claret Jug with me and I don’t think I’m never going to get tired of looking at that! People are still congratulating me, which is a nice feeling. Everyone in the media is still asking me about that final round and obviously I’ve been happy to talk about it. My buddy Adam Scott has had to field a lot of questions, too. It’s not so easy for him, but he’s been very classy about it. That doesn’t surprise me.
We played a practice round together here on Wednesday afternoon. I've known Adam for 10 years and we have a pretty close relationship. He is a good friend of the family and of mine. If he needs any help or encouragement to win a major, I'll give it to him. It was impressive to see him start with a four-under par 68. That shows what a great player he is, bouncing straight back after what happened at the Open.
Anyway, you could almost say we might have had back-to-back links majors with Kiawah being right next to the ocean and playing firm and fast like it can sometimes. But with all the rain we had in the build-up to this week’s PGA Championship, there aren’t too many similarities to the links courses of the British Isles that I’ve grown so fond of over the years. The course is actually playing pretty soft.
Come the first round on Thursday there wasn’t even much of the wind that we might have anticipated. It was a beautiful sunny day by the ocean and the morning starters had it really calm, which was evident in the low scoring. I had a late tee time and obviously you’re aware that the guys are going low, but you can’t let that alter your game plan. It was breezy out there for us late starters and you’ve got to stay patient and you’ve got to play smart.
My swing felt comfortable and on the greens I rolled the ball pretty good. Overall, I played better than I scored, so in that sense level par 72 was slightly disappointing. I can build on that, though. We’re out early on Friday morning and hopefully we should get a good break with the weather just like the guys did early on Thursday.
Major championship golf doesn’t always work out quite so neatly, though. From what I’ve heard it looks like we might have some weather coming in and Kiawah will then really start to show its teeth. I think on balance I’d prefer slightly more links-like conditions. Definitely a bit of a wind blowing would suit me just fine.
(Charitable contributions are welcome to reigning Open champion Ernie Els’ ‘Els for Autism’ Foundation. Visit elsforautism.com for details)