Ernie Els has admitted he found it hard to re-focus after badly injuring a spectator with his first shot of this year’s Open Championship.
Els, a two-time winner of the Claret Jug, struck an elderly man directly in the face with his ball after pulling his opening shot into a group of spectators. He proceeded to triple-bogey the hole and took 42 shots to play the front nine in seven-over.
The 44-year-old South African managed to compose himself enough to play the back nine in level-par but admitted afterwards that he had been badly shaken by the experience on the first.
“I hit the guy right in the face and there was blood everywhere,” he said. “I felt pretty bad about it, hurting the guy the way I did. Hopefully, he’s better now but it wasn’t very nice.”
“It was like a bullet coming at him." - Ernie Els
Asked if the incident had affected his game, Els said: “Yeah, I was thinking about him. There was blood all over and I was quite rattled. I was kind of finished and then I started missing short putts. It was a nightmare. I just hope the gentleman feels better because he looked really bad when I left him there.
“It was like a bullet coming at him, so he must have been in total shock. He didn’t look very good. I spoke to him and he wasn’t feeling too good getting hit.”
Els, who estimated the man was ‘probably in his 60s’ added: “I’ve hit spectators before but maybe in the leg or the back. I’ve never hit a guy right in the face. I remember my buddy Frank Nobilo getting hit in the head and it basically ended his golf career. I don’t know how many stitches he needed.”
The ‘Big Easy’ added that he thought the man may have required medical treatment. “I’m sure he had to, he was pretty badly injured," he said.
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