Ernie Els will defend his Open Championship title in the 142nd iteration of golf’s only major outside the United States, beginning this week at the 7,192-yard Muirfield golf links.
Els will fend off 155 challengers, including seven amateurs, seeking about $1.4 million for the winner’s share of the about $7.8 million prize purse.
In 2002, the last time the Open came to Muirfield, Els won his first British Open. He recovered from a double bogey on the 16th hole to join a four-man playoff with Thomas Levet, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington. Appleby and Elkington were eliminated after the four-hole playoff, and Els beat Levet in the first sudden-death situation in the British Open with a par on the 18th hole. Tiger Woods’ bid for the Grand Slam ended Saturday when he shot 81 during a two-hour wind- and rainstorm.
Last year, Els joined some exclusive company by becoming the sixth player to win both the British Open and U.S. Open multiple times; the others were Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tiger Woods.
Els overcame a six-shot deficit in the final round with a 2-under 68, though he needed a lot of help — and Adam Scott provided it in the final hour at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. Scott was four shots ahead with four holes to play. Els made a 15-foot birdie putt on the last hole. Scott closed with four straight bogeys, driving into a fairway bunker on the 18th and missing a 7-foot par putt that would have forced a playoff. Els finished at 7-under 273.
Here are more facts and figures about the 2013 Open Championship:
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Open champions at Muirfield
Harold Hilton (1892), Harry Vardon (1896), James Braid (1901, 1906), Ted Ray (1912), Walter Hagen (1929), Alfred Perry (1935), Henry Cotton (1948), Gary Player (1959), Jack Nicklaus (1966), Lee Trevino (1972), Tom Watson (1980), Nick Faldo (1987, 1992), Ernie Els (2002).
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Muirfield is considered by many to be the purest and fairest of all the links in the Open rotation. The outward nine runs in a clockwise direction on the perimeter of the property, while the inward nine goes mainly in a counter-clockwise rotation in the middle. Players are most likely to face the wind in every direction during the round. Muirfield is home of “The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers,” which in 1744 established 13 “Rules of Golf.” The company moved in 1891 to Muirfield, which was designed by Old Tom Morris and revised in 1922 by Harry Colt.
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Tiger Woods now has gone five full years since he last won a major championship. He has not competed since he finished 12 shots behind at the U.S. Open.
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Every winner of the British Open at Muirfield after World War II is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
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The British Open is the only major that has not had a winner from the top 10 in the world ranking over the last five years.
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“For some reason, great players play great there.” — Lee Trevino on Muirfield.
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All times EDT
- Thursday and Friday: 5 a.m. to 3 p.m., ESPN.
- Saturday: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., ESPN.
- Sunday: 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., ESPN.