(Eds: With AP Photos.) By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer Still in shock over winning the British Open, Ernie Els walked onto the 18th green to collect the claret jug. He looked at thousands of people in the grandstands who only an hour earlier had celebrated this 42-year-old champion making one last birdie.
''I have to ask you all a question,'' Els said to them. ''Were you just being nice to me? Or did you actually believe?''
Perhaps the Big Easy should have asked that of himself.
He had every reason to beat himself up this year, and every reason to believe his best days were behind him.
Winless in more than two years, he had a one-shot lead at Innisbrook when he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole, and missed another 4-footer just as badly on the 18th green that would have put him into a playoff at the Transitions Championship. Two months later, he was in a playoff with Jason Dufner in New Orleans when Els had a 6-foot putt for the win on the first extra hole. It never h...