July 10, 2005

Big Easy looks to St Andrews with Open confidence

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOCH LOMOND, Scotland (Reuters) - World number three Ernie
Els was in confident mood for next week's British Open after
tying for 11th in the Scottish Open on Sunday.

The smooth-swinging South African felt his game was close
to peaking for St Andrews after he signed off at Loch Lomond
with a three-under-par 68.

"I didn't play as well today as I did yesterday but I still
feel I'm striking the ball well," the 35-year-old told
reporters after finishing at under-13 271.

"I feel my game is really close to where I want it and I've
got myself in a competitive mode," added Els, whose three major
victories include the 2002 British Open at Muirfield.

"I'm really looking forward to next week."

Els, who had been bidding for an unprecedented third
Scottish Open crown at Loch Lomond, said he was better prepared
for St Andrews than he had been for last month's U.S. Open at

"Before Pinehurst, I did a lot of work but for some reason
I didn't have a lot of confidence. I didn't feel my game was
totally there."

Els, a double U.S. Open champion, struggled for the first
three days at Pinehurst before a closing level-par 70 lifted
him into a tie for 15th.

"This week, though, has been very easy, staying on site and
relaxing," added the player widely known as the 'Big Easy'. "By
and large, I have played pretty well and I've been very happy
to be here."

The popular South African had considered pulling out of the
Scottish Open to practise links golf for St Andrews, having
said after the U.S. Open that he needed a break from the game.

He also had to return to South Africa last week for the
funeral of his grandfather.