Originally posted on The Sports Rocker  |  Last updated 7/22/12
The story coming out of Ernie Els's remarkable Open championship today will be a mixture of how Adam Scott collapsed over the final four holes and how, on a day when none of the leaders could shoot below par, Els was able to claw all the way back to the top. Except, in reality, that underestimates just how far back Els really started.

If the season had ended yesterday, the enduring story of Ernie Els's year would be Augusta National and a streak of 17-straight invitations broken. Ernie came into the year playing mediocre, was mired in the mid-50s in ranking and therefore was due no automatic invitation to The Masters. There was a chance when Els led late at Innisbrook, when a victory would have been an automatic entry to Amen Corner, but the chance was lost when Els slid a four-footer by on the 18th. He had a similar chance at the Arnold Pamer Invitational but faded late, ultimately finishing 4th. In the weeks leading into The Masters, the public outcry grew but the committee stood its ground (and rightfully so) and Els was left out of the field.

Any player of Els's generation would have likely been excused if they just folded and began their preparations for the Legends Tour. But not Els. He responded to his week off in April by nearly winning the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. He finished in the top-50 at the Byron Nelson, had a great Memorial through the first three days and then posted a top-10 at the U.S. Open at Olympic. He responded both publicly to the lack of invitation -- "To go through all of this and then get an invite, I wouldn't take it. They can keep it." -- and then he responded on the course by ultimately winning today at Royal Lytham St. Anne.

As a golf fan, I have watched Els for years but to be honest, I never knew his personal approach to golf and to life. While his number of wins and majors clearly place him in an elite group of golfers, I don't think I've heard him speak as much to the press as he has this year. And what I find as I listen to his interviews leading into The Masters, after the invitation was not offered, during his great run in New Orleans, all the way up through today's post-win interview with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi is how open and how honest he is about the game of golf and his place in it. The humility is refreshing in this modern era of look-at-me star athletes. He makes it easy to be a fan of not only Ernie Els but also of the game of golf. His story of hard work and redemption -- how the man left out became the man on top -- should serve as an inspiration to all of us.

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