It's been a fine year for Ernie Els, a return to form. He won at Doral and Bay Hill early in the year, performed extraordinarily well at the U.S. Open, won the goofy little Grand Slam of Golf and got named to the World Golf Hall of Fame. And now he's closed out the year with his fifth win at the South African Open.
Were it not for the recovery of a certain Escalade accident victim and the rise to prominence of several European golfers, Els would be the story of 2010 hands down. But he's got to settle for keeping that smooth swing warm, and he'll continue to hope for that one last post-40 major.
The South African Open was about as far as you can get from major golf. For one thing, the final two days of the tournament were only 17 holes, as the par-3 fourth was too waterlogged to play either day. Tournament organizers slapped everyone with a straight par on the hole.
Could that have had an impact on the outcome? Of course. Els beat Retief Goosen (old guys unite!) by a single stroke, finishing at 25-under. He pulled off a fine final round, carding five birdies and an eagle against a single bogey. Els also won the tournament in 1992, 1996, 1998 and 2006.
It was a South African kind of leaderboard, with Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel finishing third and fourth. But the day belonged to Els, who enters 2011 riding the confidence that comes with multiple victories, no matter what the tour.