By Bob Harig
Special to ESPN Golf Online
Sunday, July 23

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Ernie Els is on his way to the Secondary Slam.

That's second place in all four major championships.

No more envy
It was two years ago when Mark O'Meara hoisted the Claret Jug, winning his second major championship of the year at the British Open after claiming The Masters.

O'Meara defeated Brian Watts in a playoff that day.

One shot behind was Tiger Woods.

O'Meara and Woods flew back to the United States together, and O'Meara recalled just how much Woods envied the trophy.

"He held it and he knew that he wanted it someday," O'Meara said. "I think he was happy for me that I'd won as a friend, but yet I think he realized in his mind that he wanted to see his name printed on that trophy very soon.

"Certainly, this year after the way he played at the U.S. Open and then coming here to the Open Championship at St. Andrews, he knew it would be special. He knew he would be the heavy favorite, and sometimes that amount of pressure is just tremendous. But he plays with a lot of poise. He handles himself exceptionally well on the golf course and I'm proud of that."
With his 69 on Sunday at the Old Course, Els tied for second at the Open Championship, giving him a runner-up finish all three majors so far this year.

Els finished three shots back of Masters winner Vijay Singh, then 15 behind Tiger Woods at the U.S. Open and eight behind Woods again this week.

"I'm playing a different tournament," Els said. "I play the regular tour event and Tiger plays his own event. It is nice. I don't think I've ever done that in my life. But I could play as good as I could, and I don't think I would have got to 19 (under) like Tiger. So second will be nice."

Els took the first-round lead with a 66, but stumbled in the middle two rounds. His 70 on Saturday left him despondent.

"I really did not feel like going out there and trying to fight to death," he said. "But when I made the birdie on the first hole, I said I might as well give it another go and see how many birdies we can make. ... After my first yesterday, I was a little flat this morning."

Els said it is difficult to be disappointed by his performance.

"I could have sneaked the one at The Masters, but the last two I never really had a chance playing the last day," he said. "To be nine or 10 shots behind the winner is tough to take. But what can you do? ... I have to play really well and he has to have a mediocre week like I had this week."

Crossing the pond
There is talk that American players could have their own British Open qualifier in the United States. Presently, those players who have not earned a spot in the Open Championship can attempt to qualify at one of four 36-hole events staged the Sunday and Monday before the tournament.

"I'm very concerned that the players from 50 to 100 in the World Rankings are reluctant to come over for pre-qualifying," said Hugh Campbell, chairman of the Open Championship committee. "We are taking serious steps to have either a qualifying event in the States or use one of the regular U.S. tour events itself as a qualifier offering a certain number of places."

If that happens, would the U.S. Open consider staging some sort of qualifying in Europe? Just wondering.

Avoiding the sand
The conditions were benign all week, making the Old Course play quite easy for the best golfers in the world. But it did have one defense: the bunkers.

"The bunkers are like silos," said five-time Open champion Tom Watson. "They're very vertical and I don't understand how the average player can get out of them. They are very, very tough and it is going to ruin a lot of rounds of golf if you get into these bunkers because of the severity of them.

"But if you avoid the bunkers, obviously like Tiger is doing, you are going to succeed."

Enough said
Some folks never learn. Taking a page from the Ben Wright, politically incorrect book, BBC golf commentator Peter Allis stunned viewers of last week's Loch Lomond event when he made audible "tom-tom-tom" noises when Notah Begay III hooked a drive into the rough. Begay is a Native American.

"Those in executive positions should think hard about whether they want to employ a person who does this sort of thing," Begay said. "I've tried not to be too offended, but I'd certainly prefer it didn't happen. ... It was completely out order."

Coming to America
Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez has decided to join several of his European counterparts by playing on the PGA Tour next year.

The European Ryder Cup member who has been a top-five finisher the last two seasons on the Order of Merit hopes there is a rules change that allows players like him a chance to earn points in America.

"I want to play both tours next year, and I think the money you earn wherever you are in the world should count," said Jimenez, who tied for second last month at the U.S. Open.

Streaking to a finish
The unofficial streaker count for the week came to five, with the best being saved for last Sunday, at least in terms of elusiveness.

Just before Woods made his stroll up the 18th fairway of the Old Course, a woman wearing only her eyeglasses somehow made it all the way from the Swilken Burn to the putting surface, where she circled the pin several times before being apprehended.

"It's a shame," Woods said. "It's a special moment that I did not want interrupted. I did not really feel that great about it."

Chip shots
  • Woods' victory is the largest at the British Open since 1913 when John Taylor defeated Ted Ray by eight shots at Hoylake.

  • Woods became just the sixth golfer to win the U.S. Open and the British Open in the same year and the first since Tom Watson in 1982. The others were Lee Trevino (1971), Ben Hogan (1953), Gene Sarazen (1932) and Bobby Jones (1926, 1930).

  • Only three players have finished among the top 10 in all three majors this year: Woods, Els and Loren Roberts. David Duval was in the top 10 at The Masters and U.S. Open but dropped from second to 11th at the British after his Road Hole disaster.

    Bob Harig, who covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times, writes a column every Tuesday for ESPN Golf Online. Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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