By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Ernie Els, the defending British Open champion, got his first look at this year’s site Thursday, playing Muirfield alongside South African businessman and good friend Johann Rupert. Muirfield was the site of Els’ first British Open victory in 2002.
“I love the course,” Els told PGATOUR.COM on Friday. “I think it’s set up very similar to 1992 and 2002. The rough is good, the fairways are good, some of the holes have been lengthened.”
Els said statements attributed to him on a transcript Wednesday at the Irish Open calling the Muirfield rough "ridiculous" couldn't have been accurate since he hadn't played the course until Thursday.
“There is rough, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it’s unfair,” said Els, who also finished fifth in the 1992 British Open at Muirfield. “I think everyone will find a tough, fair layout.
Muirfield has previously hosted the championship 15 times. A World Golf Hall of Famer has won 13 of those tournaments, including Els. Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo also are past champions at Muirfield.
“Your lines off the tee, you have be to very selective,” Els said. “The longer hitters can take holes on, or you can play it safe. There’s a lot of doglegs. It has four of the best par-3s you’ll see on linksland. It’s a shot-makers golf course. It’s a thinking man’s golf course.”