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June 14 2013

10:59 AM

Two-time champ relies on experience

Ernie Els will start the second round four strokes off the lead.

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

ARDMORE, Pa. -- Ernie Els certainly knows what it takes to win a U.S. Open. He's done it twice, after all.

But on a chilly, damp and windy day like Friday, a day that conjured up thoughts of playing golf in the UK, Els has the added benefit of owning two British Open titles.

Els, who persevered with a 71, said the northwest wind that greeted players returning to Merion on Friday morning to complete their first rounds was a two-club wind. It was gusting over 20 mph, too.

"It's dead into you on 14, 15, 17," Els said. "And then 18 is downwind. And it was raining a bit. So it was really more British Open, Open Championship stuff, should I say, so it was really difficult. 

"You throw the rough in there, then the length of some of the holes, it's a tough finish."

Els took advantage of Merion's more generous holes, making birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 to get to 2 under. But he gave those back, and then some, with a string of three straight bogeys that began on the 14th hole.

"(At) 16 I only had a 9-iron and 15, I kind of misclubbed myself," Els reported. "So those two bogeys sting a little bit. It would have been great to get it into the red. But I got to be ... happy with 1 over. 

"Especially 17 and 18 are just virtually impossible."

Els, who will defend his British Open title at Muirfield next month, only hit seven fairways and just eight greens in regulation. Using just 27 putts kept the South African in the game, though.

"It's very difficult," Els said. "I was actually fortunate a couple of times, I didn't hit too many fairways, but I did get reasonable lies.
   
"On 14 I hit it down the right and I could only advance the ball 20 yards into the rough. And then I had 120 to the front edge. So it was very difficult to get the ball out of there."  
 

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