Ernie Els handed back the iconic Claret Jug this week ahead of the defence of his Open Championship title at Muirfield, in Scotland.
The South African – who is more affectionately known as the ‘Big Easy’ – won the title for the second time in his career last year Royal Lytham – his fourth major overall.
The first time he won the Claret Jug was at Muirfield in 2002 and the former world number one said he is delighted to be back at the Scottish course.
He said: “It’s, it’s a wonderful golf course. It’s great to be back. You know, obviously (I) had some success in 2002 here and to have won (the British Open) last year at Lytham and to come back here as defending champion at the place where I won before is very, very special.”
Els won the title last year following a late collapse by Australian Adam Scott who bounced back in style to win this year’s Masters.
Ahead of the 142nd edition Scott said he stood as good a chance of winning as anyone.
“Yeah, I think I’ve got as good a chance as any of the other Aussie guys playing. You know the Open championship is exactly that, it’s wide open and I think more so than any of the other majors, there are less favourites and we’ve got so many guys playing well; everyone’s hungry,” said the 32-year-old who has 21 professional wins to his name.
Els will kick-start his title defence playing the first two rounds with US Open winner Justin Rose of England and American Brandt Snedeker.
Scott is paired with American Matt Kuchar, whose best finish at the Open Champions is tied for ninth last year, and England’s Luke Donald who has twice tied for fifth at the third of the year’s four majors.