Ernie Els compares U.S. Senior Open venue to Royal Troon; ready for links-style challenge

Ernie Els has won the U.S. Open twice and a pair of Claret Jugs, so this week’s U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club should suit his game nicely.

Els compared Newport to Royal Troon, the site of this year’s Open Championship, as Newport, like Troon, sits right on the coast, meaning the elements have a great impact on the course. The wind will gust off the Atlantic, creating havoc at times. But that will also require players to keep the ball low and run it into the greens, much like what golf fans see in Scotland every summer for The Open.

“The way you’re going to have to play the course is very much links style, and the course is designed that way,” Els assessed on Tuesday.

“It’s a golf course where you can play the ball on the ground, unlike last year and normal U.S. Opens, where we play the ball in the air. It’s going to be a different taste this week. The wind is going to play a huge factor. Greens are very up, and there’s a lot of slope on them. So that wind, when it comes, it’s going to be difficult around the greens.

“There’s a bit of room for us off the tee, which is nice. As somebody that’s played in the wind, somebody that’s used to British Open type of golf, you’re going to have to hit those little 4-iron shots that will run 20, 30, 40 yards. Those who are comfortable playing in the wind will probably do well this week.”

Ernie Els, USGA

Ernie Els plays his tee shot on the 13th hole during a practice round ahead of the 2024 U.S. Senior Open at Newport Country Club.
Photo by Kathryn Riley/USGA

Of the five senior majors, the only one Els has not recorded a top-10 finish in is the U.S. Senior Open. Yet, he has posted top 20 finishes in the last three iterations, with his best finish being a T-12 at SentryWorld Golf Course in Wisconsin last year.

He has not yet triumphed in a senior major but has come close. Earlier this year, Els tied for third at the Regions Tradition. The South African then finished six strokes back of Richard Bland at the Senior PGA Championship, tying for sixth.

But he has picked up a pair of victories on the PGA Tour Champions since then, winning the Principal Charity Classic and the American Family Insurance Championship in back-to-back weeks in early June.

“I’ve been playing decent golf. Just started driving the golf ball better, so giving myself more opportunity out of the short grass to attack some of the flags,” Els said of his recent stretch.

“I made some good putts in the wins, and even when I didn’t win, I’ve been putting quite steadily. Just things are a little bit more in shape. My overall game is in better shape.”

Considering his game is rounding into form at the right time and that Els loves the layout of this course, do not be surprised if ‘The Big Easy’ prevails for his first senior major title at Newport Country Club this week.

At the very least, he should contend as long as he can control his golf ball in the wind. But he has proven to have done so before, so there’s no reason to believe he will not again this week.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.

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