Els feels at home

GOLF

Ernie Els, winner of five tournaments and over £2m last year, picked up his second victory of the year in Johannesburg yesterday.

The 25-year-old US Open champion fired a brilliant closing 64 at the Wanderers club to finish the Lexington South African PGA championship on a nine-under-par total of 271, two in front of his South African compatriot Roger Wessels.

Els, confirming his status as the best young golfer in the world, was only one ahead with two to play, but rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the short 17th and had a safe par on the 448-yard last for the 14th success of his short professional career.

"I feel great, man," he said. "It's still going to be hard to have a year like last year, but this is my home tour and I know the courses well." His other 1995 win came in the Bell's Cup last month.

Els was not the only player celebrating. The 66 of England's Van Phillips meant the 22-year-old former Walker Cup amateur from Slough earned £12,190 for joint third place with another South African, Warren Schutte, and the Zimbabweans Mark McNulty and Tony Johnstone.

The cheque was three times bigger than any Phillips has earned in 16 struggling months as a professional - he has twice failed to win a European tour card - and he said: "It should solve a few financial problems.

"I've had a lot of doors shut in my face since I left the amateur ranks and I'd like to pay back some of the money loaned to me."

Els began the final day two shots behind the Namibian Trevor Dodds, but overtook him with four birdies in his first seven holes. A 12-footer on the opening green set him off on exactly the right note and then came a hat-trick of birdies from the 482-yard fifth.

Scores, Sporting Digest, page 29

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