Tue, Jul 15, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Els beats field by five strokes ahead of British Open

AP , LUSS, SCOTLAND

South African golfer Ernie Els lifts the Loch Lomond trophy after winning the Scottish Open Golf Championship on Sunday.

PHOTO: REUTERS

British Open champion Ernie Els may never have entered a major with so much confidence.

His final 69 at the Scottish Open gave him a five-stroke victory for his second Loch Lomond triumph on Sunday, four days before he begins his Open defense at Royal St. George's.

The South African, also a two-time US Open winner, stayed well clear of Darren Clarke and Phillip Price, who matched his 69 but couldn't get closer.

Gary Murphy of Ireland took fourth place after a 67. Els finished 17 under par on 267 with Clarke and Price on 272 ad Murphy on 274.

Ian Poulter and Australian Peter Lonard, who aced the 17th hole with a 4-iron from 208 yards, shared fifth spot.

"It was a tough day. I had a little battle within myself and I overcame that and I'm happy about that," Els said.

"It's a tough thing when you play in the lead from day one. You don't want to back off, you don't want to do something stupid. You have to play a game within yourself and I won that battle this week."

He said he did not handle his putter as well Sunday as he had all week and it showed in three-putt greens at the second and 16th holes.

But otherwise he was pleased.

"I feel my total is of a better standard this year. I played at a much better standard right through my game this week. I will work on my putter. I think it's more mental than anything.

"The rest of my game is of a standard that I like."

Once again, Els was asked about the threat of Tiger Woods at the Open.

"Tiger is the No. 1 player in the world and we all know that," the South African said. "But if I feel I can play the way I want to play, I can compete against him. I feel I am a different player from a couple of years ago and I feel I can take up the challenge better than I have in the past."

Phil Mickelson rounded off his week with a 68, highlighted by a run of an eagle and three birdies on four successive holes on the back nine. He finished on 282, two under and sharing 35th position.

"I've had a great week, a lot of fun. The people are spectacular and treated us great," he said, adding that a highlight for him was going see the American rock band REM Saturday night.

The hot weather that has gripped England all week finally arrived in Scotland Sunday. It is expected to be scorching at St. George's on the southeast English coast and Mickelson said he would be curious "to see how high the rough is when it's so warm."

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